By Anthony Pilling (images by swpix)
Warrington Wolves played host to Castleford Tigers in the elimination game to kick off the 2019 play-offs.
The last time the sides met was at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle in July where the Tigers ran out 27-18 winners.
Steve Price made two changes to side that fell short in the final round of the regular season at Leeds last week. Dec Patton returned at scrum-half in place of Matty Smith while Ben Murdoch-Masila made way for Jack Hughes in the second row. Joe Philbin also made a return.
Wire missed the chance to open the scoring when Ratchford pulled a penalty wide. Daryl Powell’s side took the lead after Adam Milner went in under the posts. Daryl Clark had looked to have levelled the scores for the Wire but the video referee judged he was held up on the line.
The Wire had the scores level shortly after the restart after Jake Mamo went over in the corner. The visitors restored the lead though, through Jordan Rankin. Peter Mata’utia added a penalty to make it a two-score lead, before Hill brought the game back to within two points. Ratchford had the chance to level the game with a 50-metre penalty but fell short of the target.
Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Toby King, Josh Charnley, Blake Austin, Declan Patton, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Jack Hughes, Jason Clark
Subs: Joe Philbin, Ben Westwood, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Jake Mamo
Tries: Mamo, Hill
Goals: Ratchford (2)
Callum Turner, James Clare, Peter Mata’utia, Cheyse Blair, Greg Minikin, Jake Trueman, Jordan Rankin, Liam Watts, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Oliver Holmes, Chris Clarkson, Daniel Smith
Subs: Adam Milner, Matt Cook, Jamie Ellis, Jacques O’Neill
Tries: Milner, Rankin
Goals: Mata’utia (3)
The Wire had the first scoring opportunity of the game after four minutes when they earned themselves a penalty just right of the sticks. Ratchford missed however 0-0.
Both sides showed solid defensive lines in the early stages until the visitors broke the deadlock on 28 minutes. Paul McShane dabbed a kick through under the posts and Milner had the first try after confirmation from the video referee. Peter Mata’utia added the conversion. 0-6
The Wire nearly had their reply five minutes before the break. Clark looked to have forced his way over a metre from the line in a mess of bodies, only for the video referee to overturn the on-field call of a try. 0-6.
The Tigers looked to have a second on the stroke of half-time, after getting the ball back from a drop goal attempt which was charged down, Jake Trueman charged for the line but knocked on as he went to ground the ball. 0-6.
The Wire had the perfect restart with their first score coming two minutes in. Mamo replaced the injured Blake Austin at half time to provide the reply for the Wire when he bundled over in the corner. Ratchford added the kick from the flank. 6-6.
However, the visitors had their lead restored seven minutes later. Daryl Powell’s side had numbers going right for Rankin to go over in the corner. Mata’utia added the extras. 6-12.
Liam Watts came close for the visitors just after the hour mark as he charged over but spilled the ball on grounding. 6-12.
The home side nearly had their second of the game after 65 minutes, when Lineham charged for the corner but he lost control as he neared the line. 6-12.
The Tigers made it a two-score lead when Mata’utia added a penalty from in front of the posts three minutes later. 6-14.
The Wire were back in the game with eleven minutes to go through Hill, who powered his way over under the posts. Ratchford kicked the extras. 12-14.
Ratchford had the chance to level the game with six minutes to go with a penalty on the half-way line but the kick was just short of the posts. 12-14 it finished.