By Alan Domville (images by swpix)
Like so many games involving Warrington and Castleford this was a points-fest end-to-end thriller served up by two totally committed sides displaying everything that’s good about Rugby League.
The Tigers edged it by just four points after taking a 12-point lead early in the game. Wire hit back with 20 unanswered points before Cas came again to level the scores at the interval.
With just 17 minutes left Cas went ahead again and then pulled clear by eight points but Josh Charnley gave Wire hope with his second try of the evening.
In the end, Wire scored six tries to five but the visitors held on.
Warrington head coach fielded the same side that performed so magnificently against Wigan in the Challenge Cup quarter final a week ago while Daryl Powell handed debuts to Mitch Clark and Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e.
Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Ryan Atkins, Josh Charnley, Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts, Chris Hill (c), Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Harvey Livett, Jack Hughes, Ben Westwood
Interchanges: Ben Murdoch-Masila, Dec Patton, Joe Philbin, Sitaleki Akauola
Tries: Roberts, Ratchford, Clark, Akauola, Charnley (2)
Goals: Livett (2), Goodwin
Calum Turner, Greg Minikin, Alex Foster, Michael Shenton (c), Jy Hitchcox, Quentin Laulu Togagae, Jake Trueman, Matt Cook, Adam Milner, Grant Millington, Joe Wardle, Mike McMeeken, Jesse Sene-Lefao
Interchanges: Oliver Holmes, Nathan Massey, Mitch Clark, Will Maher
Tries: McMeeken, Turner, Hitchcox, Laulu Togagae, Holmes
Goals: Turner (6), Milner
Sin Bin: Adam Milner (47mins)
Stefan Ratchford kicked off towards the West Stand with Wire aiming to draw level with Wigan in second place in the Super League table but first blood went to Castleford who capitalised on lost possession in the fifth minute.
Mike McMeeken kicked soccer-style to the line and touched down, Calum Turner converting.
And Wire were stunned again soon afterwards when a defence-splitting run by Adam Milner paved the way for a try for Turner who snapped up a loose ball and touched down by the upright. The same player added the extras and Cas were ahead 12-0.
Wire hit back and a kick by Kevin Brown to the corner was palmed back by Charnley to Ryan Atkins who sent Tyrone Roberts flying in.
Harvey Livett could not convert from the touchline but Wire had points on the board and they were soon to strike again.
Ratchford raced through and although he was brought to the ground on his back by Laulu-Togaga’e he managed to reach out and touch down.
Referee Ben Thaler awarded the try but sought confirmation that it hadn’t been a double movement from the video referee; it was duly given. It was now 8-12 with 21 minutes gone and Wire were right back in the game.
From the restart the ball was lost by both sides but Wire were awarded the scrum and a penalty.
On the half hour Wire would complete their initial response to Cas’s shock lead. Chris Hill was hauled down close to the line and played the ball quickly to Daryl Clark who found a way through the melee to touch down.
It appeared to be a fine opportunist try but referee Thaler once again sought a second opinion before affirming it. Livett goaled and Wire were ahead 14-12.
Cas responded four minutes later and looked certain to score when Alex Foster broke clear but he dropped the ball with no-one to beat.
Back came Wire and one of many fine kicks to the line by Roberts was chased by Atkins but the ball bounced too high for him to collect.
A penalty to Wire took them to half way and it led to a superb break by Clark and a touchdown by Sitaleki Akauola beneath the crossbar.
Livett’s conversion put Wire ahead 20-12 with eight minutes left of the first period.
A penalty to Cas for a high tackle was punished when Michael Shenton sent Jy Hitchcox over in the corner.
Turner converted to reduce the deficit once again to two and another penalty in the last minute enabled the same player to equalise.
Warrington conceded a penalty soon after the resumption and Cas came on the attack. Laulu Togagae kicked the ball over the whitewash but Tom Lineham was able to make the ball dead.
From the resultant goal-line drop-out Milner was grounded on his back over the line and Wire survived the onslaught.
Milner then blotted his copybook with what appeared to be an off-the-ball shoulder charge on Roberts which prompted a scuffle involving several players. The referee restored order when he yellow carded Milner.
Wire now had a chance to exploit their numerical advantage. Jack Hughes went close, a goal-line drop-out was forced and Ratchford kicked to the corner but the ball could not be taken.
A penalty for interference in a tackle on Bryson Goodwin brought the breakthrough. Ratchford floated out a pass to Charnley and the winger was able to crash over in the corner.
Once again it was a dual decision that was required to confirm the touchdown.
The extras couldn’t be added from the touchline but Wire were ahead again at 24-20.
Back came the Tigers and Laulu Togagae completed a fine passing move. Turner’s conversion hit an upright before bouncing inside and it was 24-26 with just over 17 minutes left.
And then Cas struck again with QLT sending Oliver Holmes over in the right channel. Turner converted to make it 24-32 and now there were just over 12 minutes to go.
Yet another of Roberts’ towering kicks kept Wire in the game. Cas spilled the ball at the back and Charnley was able to find a way over in the corner.
Yet another referral upstairs confirmed the score and Goodwin was able to kick the goal from the touchline.
With nine minutes left it was 30-32 but just three later Wire conceded a penalty in front of their posts and Milner slotted the ball home.
There was still time for Roberts to send up another bomb but it couldn’t be turned into points and the game ended with a penalty to Cas with two second left; they decided not to kick for goal but run the ball into touch.
It had been a nail-biting, edge of the seat thriller that neither side deserved to lose.