Castleford Tigers and Salford Red Devils kicked off the Dacia Magic Weekend at St James Park in their fourth encounter of the season. Before kick-off, the tally stood at two wins to Cast and one to the Reds
Could the Tigers make their top-six play-off hopes a little more secure with a third win? Could the original Red Devils level the record and start their own climb up the table from 11th?
Injuries meant an unfamiliar half-back pairing for Cas, who were coming off the back of being nilled by Wigan:
Peter Mata’utia lined up alongside utility player Jordan Turner, who was starting his 350th professional game and is one of a handful of players who appeared in the original Millenium Magic weekend in Cardiff, back in 2007.
Cas had the first penalty – and first error – of the match when Paul McShane failed to find ouch following Morgan Escare’s offside in the third minute.
But it was McShane who opened the scoring after eight minutes, breaing the line from dummy half and sprinting 20 metres to ground the ball. Mata’utia kicked the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
As the clock approached the quarter-hour Ken Sio cut back from a Tui Lolohea run across the Castleford line to cross on the left. Krisnan Inu made no mistake with the conversion and the game was level at 6-6.
But he the team in black and amber – or at least orange – marched easily up the centre of the field and, following a set-restart in Salford’s red zone, McShane passed the ball out to Daniel Smith who spun through the defence and grounded by the posts.
Mata’utia kicked the goal and the Tigers again had a six-point lead at 12-6.
Ten minutes later, Salford got a set restart in the Castleford 20 and smartly moved the ball out to Joe Burgess, in the clear on the left wing, who dated over to ground the ball in the corner. Inu again levelled the score at 12-12.
They came close to taking the lead for the first time in the 30th minute but passed into touch with the Cas line unguarded just metres in from of them.
Both teams pressured the other after that, but it was Castleford’s Olly Holmes who twisted in the tackle and reached behind his head to ground and put the Tigers in the lead for the third time.
There was no conversion and Cas took the 16-12 lead into half time.
Despite losing McShane to injury again, the Tigers opened the next half with 10 minutes of sustained pressure, which paid off when Turner received the ball 10m from the Salford line and crashed through a tiring defence for the first score of the half.
Mata’utia’s conversion took the Tigers’ lead out to 10 points at 22-12.
Salford responded with four repeat sets in the Cas 20, and reaped the reward when Ata Hingano powered over by the posts following a simple dummy. Inu goaled to take the score to 22-18.
Mistakes on both sides made the game anybody’s from then on.
Salford’s best chance came when a Lolohea 40-20 moved them into Castleford’s half with a little over 10 minutes to play, but it came to nothing when strong Castleford defence saw Sio bundled into touch.
Castleford then broke up field. Holmes crossed the line again, but was held up. With time to plan the next play saw the ball moved to Mata’utia on the right, He charged through a melting Red Devil defence. He converted his own try to restore the 10 point gap, with just seven minutes to go to the final hooter.
And with the hooter about to sound, Turner took the opportunity to kick a drop goal for a 29-18 final scoreline.
It was an untidy win for the ‘Fords in a scrappy match – but the Tigers should now be sure of their play-off game.
Score progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 10-6, 12-6, 12-10, 12-12, 16-12. HT: 20-12, 22-12. 22-16, 22-18, 26-18, 28-18, 31-18.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Clare, Shenton, Blair, Olpherts; Turner (T, DG), Mata’utia (T, 4G); Griffin, McShane (T), Smith (T), Holmes (T), Sene-Lefao, Massey. Replacements: Milner, Foster, Hepi, Matagi.
Salford Red Devils: Escare, Sio (T), Inu (3G), Sarginson; Burgess (T); Lolohea, Hingano (T); Johnson, Atkin, Burke, Roberts., Robson, Brown. Replacements: Luckley, Costello, , Lannon Addy.
Referee: Chris Kendall.
Half Time: 16-12.
Full Time: 31-18
Venue: St James Park, Newcastle.