|Castleford (0) 24|
|Tries: Mata’utia 2, Turner, Millington Goals: Richardson 4|
|Warrington (26) 40|
|Tries: Ashton 3, Mamo 2, Wrench Goals: Ratchford 7, Widdop|
Warrington Wolves survived a second-half fightback and the dismissal of Mike Cooper to end Castleford’s Super League play-off hopes in a thriller.
The Wire went 32-0 up with Matty Ashton’s hat-trick and two from Jake Mamo as departing Tigers boss Daryl Powell pondered a miserable farewell.
Peter Mata’utia’s double, plus tries from Jordan Turner and the retiring Grant Millington gave Cas hope.
Connor Wrench finally eased Wire fears and brought Tigers’ season to an end.
This loss means Hull KR and Leeds Rhinos will complete the top six, and face each other on Friday in their last league game to decide who plays Wigan or Warrington in the eliminators.
There was a further sour note to the Tigers’ defeat, as the retiring Michael Shenton went off with a suspected dislocated shoulder in his final match.
So much of the narrative going into the game related to this being Powell’s final home game before taking over at Warrington, and also that of departing captain Shenton and several other first-teamers such as prop Millington.
The Mend-a-Hose Jungle was packed, buzzing and crackling with emotion but other than a guard of honour formed before kick-off, there was no sentiment at all from the visitors.
Their boss Steve Price will make way for opposite number Powell at the end of the season, and gave the Cas boss a taste of what is to come as the Wire flew out of the blocks in style.
They consistently bulldozed down the middle, with Ben Currie and Rob Mulhern splitting the line for two of Ashton’s three touchdowns, while props Cooper and Chris Hill combined for a huge linebreak for Mamo’s first try.
When Ashton raced in for his third with Shenton already off the field injured, it looked as though Cas’ goodbye to their boss and departing stars in their final home game of the season would be a sombre affair.
However, they finally showed some of the character and mettle which has been the hallmark of their time under Powell to make it a contest with 24 unanswered points.
Niall Evalds had a big hand in both of Mata’utia’s tries and the Turner score, which came at a time when Josh Charnley was in the sin-bin, before Millington plucked a loose take out of the air to rouse the Wheldon Road end.
Cooper was then sent off for a shoulder to the head of Liam Watts, but Tigers’ deficit proved too much to overcome in the end, particularly after Stefan Ratchford kicked a goal to make it a 10-point lead and Wrench’s late score finished them off.
Warrington move onto the play-offs, while for Castleford the tears rolled down the cheeks from those in the stands and on the pitch as those heading for retirement and pastures new took the applause on a last lap of honour.
Warrington head coach Steve Price:
“This is where the good times start, the fun times. We’ll take a lot of belief out of the first 40 minutes, it was the best we’ve played all season. We’re in a good place.
“We took the emotion out of the game nice and early. We played hard and we played fast with a good style to our play, whilst defensively we were really hard-nosed and kept them out a number of times on the line.
“We needed to change the momentum after Castleford’s period being on top and the boys did that.”
On Cooper’s red card: “That was really harsh, a red card for that it, was really tough.
“I’m confident he will not have to answer to that or Josh Charnley’s tackle although it did warrant a yellow.”
Castleford boss Daryl Powell:
“We just gave ourselves too much to do. The first couple of tries were soft defensively and there was a bit of luck for the next two and we’re chasing the game.
“I said to the boys at half-time ‘we’ve got to find it within ourselves to get back into the game’ and I thought we showed what we’re about.
“We showed so much courage and effort and so much skill in the second half to give ourselves a chance and we nearly had them.”
Powell, who has coached his home-town team since 2013 but will succeed Price at Warrington in 2022, says the club will always be in his heart.
“I’ve had an absolute ball. I’ve supported the club as a teenager, the club will always be special to me.”
Castleford: Evalds; Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Turner; Richardson, O’Brien; Millington, McShane, Griffin, Sene-Lefao, Foster, Massey.
Interchanges: Watts, Milner, Smith, Matagi
Warrington: Ashton; Thewlis, Wrench, Mamo, Charnley; Widdop, Williams; Cooper, Ratchford, Hill, Currie, Hughes, Philbin
Interchanges: J. Clark, Mulhern, Longstaff, Austin
Sin-bin: Charnley (59)
Sent off: Cooper (65)