Cas clinch semi-final spot!
Posted: Saturday 8th May 2021 - 9:29 PM
A Gareth O’Brien drop goal in golden point extra time was enough for the Tigers to eek out a 19-18 victory and book their Challenge Cup semi-final place!
Emerald Headingley played host to cagey but highly entertaining game which went right to the final whistle as the Fords were able to ride impressive performances from Paul McShane and Liam Watts to secure a win by the narrowest of margins.
Eight days since meeting in the league, the Tigers faced the Salford Red Devils once again for a place in the semi-final of the Betfred Challenge Cup. Daryl Powell’s men had emerged with an 18-28 win from the AJ Bell and demonstrated a combination of impressive attack and disciplined defence in a tight game.
The two sides have contested several historic fixtures in this competition, including a memorable Wembley final in 1969 which saw Castleford lift the trophy but in recent years the cup has been kinder to Salford: The side from Greater Manchester just losing out to Leeds Rhinos in last years’ final, whilst Daryl Powell will see this year as an opportunity to sign off his Tigers tenure in style with some silverware.
There were a few changes to the Fords' line-up from their last outing: Jordan Turner stepping in for Greg Eden on the wing, whilst Grant Millington moved back into the second row to accommodate the returning George Griffin, set to face his former side. Gareth O’Brien was named amongst the interchanges along with youngster Brad Martin, who impressed in last week.
Salford were also pressed into some reshuffling: Dan Sarginson and Elijah Taylor adding their wealth of experience to the Red Devil’s starting thirteen as they looked to exact a measure of revenge for their league defeat.
The wet and windy conditions placed a premium on ball security and execution of play and this was emphasised just a minute into the game as a Danny Richardson kick caught the wind and went out on the full, only for Sarginson to lose the ball after the restart on a greasy surface moments later.
A scrappy opening five minutes was edged by the Tigers who had plenty of possession but couldn’t make it tell as they went close through both Jake Trueman and Niall Evalds, however a resilient Salford defence stood firm.
The deadlock was nearly broken as Turner looked to continue his fine try-scoring form from the wing, after three back-to-back sets, but the pass from Michael Shenton was a touch too far in front and the chance was gone.
Salford had weathered the early Tigers’ storm and they received their just reward after 15 minutes, a defence-splitting kick from Kevin Brown bouncing and falling for Harvey Livett to ground, and then he converted his own score to hand his side an early six-point lead.
Cas were rueing not converting their early pressure into points as their opposition continued to turn the screw and look for a second score, and more clever kicks from Brown and Lolohea forced goal line dropouts. However the Fords toughed it out and just when Danny Addy looked to smuggle the ball over the line, Liam Watts pulled off a superb steal, wrestling the ball away to earn his side a reprieve.
Straight off the back of this, a penalty for the Tigers allowed them to move off their own line, and they were able to mount an attack of their own which ended with Daniel Smith barging his way over through three defenders to get Cas back into the game. Richardson adding the extras to level the scores after 25 minutes.
Paul McShane was one of the stand out players from the Round Five fixture and he continued where he left off here - a series of scampering carries, and probing kicks from dummy half keeping his side on top in the field position battle. He later found Liam Watts close to the try line and the marauding prop almost managed to touch down whilst being held up by numerous Salford Red Devils, only for the boot of Addy to narrowly prevent the grounding.
Much like last week, the game looked to be decided by the side who best kept their discipline and a penalty against Castleford for a high shot saw them punished just a few plays later as a short side play meant Livett was put through a cap to bag his second score and eek out a narrow lead for his side.
Cup comebacks are nothing new to the Tigers’ in 2021 of course and they demonstrated the whistle-to-whistle resilience which saw them edge out Hull KR in the previous round as they managed to go into half time level: A repeat set with 50 seconds to go saw Watts juking down the right edge and he offloaded to Millington who showed quick hands to scoop the ball on to Mata’utia to score just as the halftime hooter sounded.
The second half started in much the same way that the first, with a Red Devils’ error handing their opponents' early opportunities, but like before, onrushing defenders helped shut down the Tigers’ plays and keep the game close.
As the clock ticked on, the match opened up a little more, and whilst Danny Richardson had already punished Salford with his boot off the tee, he was close to doing so from open play as his stabbed kick through was collected by Shenton with the line at his mercy but credit Ken Sio for a heroic strip to deny the Castleford skipper from scoring.
With just over twenty minutes to go, it remained a cagey affair at 12-12 but the game was blown wide open by – who else?- Paul McShane, who switched the attacking play to the short side 30 metres out, evading Red Devils’ defenders, before drawing the last man and slipping a pass to Shenton who romped over the line to score. O’Brien, taking over kicking duties from the bench, nailed the touch line conversion to hand Cas a slender advantage going into the last quarter of the game.
Salford continued to press and managed to make it up to the Castleford line, where another well-weighted kick from Brown forced Niall Evalds to concede a goal line drop out, but a mistake from Mossop helped ease the pressure and the Fords survive.
Richard Marshall’s side continued to press heavily and the game looked to turn on its head as a Lolohea kick caused problems for the Castleford defence and Gareth O’Brien was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul after he was adjudged to have taken out a chasing Salford player.
Being down to 12 men and defending a fresh set on their own line might have paved the way for the Tigers to concede a quick follow-up score but rugged defence and swarming bodies meant Kevin Brown was held up over the line on the last.
The final ten minutes saw Daryl Powell’s side have to abandon their usual expansive style and play more pragmatically in order to survive the sin bin period: McShane in particular was able to demonstrate his versatile kicking game as he looked to find yardage and turn Salford shirts to preserve the narrow lead.
However, Castleford’s task became more difficult as with just six minutes left, a late Watts shot on Taylor was enough for the referee to send him to the bin and leave Cas momentarily defending with just eleven men.
A nervy finish ensued as Lee Mossop was held up over the line, and then, looking to work the two-man advantage, Pauli Pauli’s pass to Sio was just behind the winger and the Black and Amber shirts breathed a sigh of relief at the resulting knock-on.
Nevertheless, the Red Devils produced a sensational final minute, taking advantage of a Castleford error at the play of the ball with just 90 seconds to go, and they promptly marched down the field with Mossop finding himself on a crash ball and managing to touch down with the ball above his head. Livett converting the kick to take the game to golden point extra time.
A marathon 19 minutes of extra time were played in their Round Three cup win over Hull KR, however, Cas fans' hearts must have been in their mouths after just two additional minutes as Kevin Brown shaped to kick a potentially game winning drop goal. However it was McShane who heroically charged down the kick, jumping on the bouncing ball to put his own side in control at halfway.
From there, strong carries from Griffin and Nathan Massey helped put their side in position, and then it was down to drop goal hero Gareth O’Brien to redeem himself by calmly slotting his kick and securing passage into the semi final for his side.
Full Time: Castleford Tigers 19-18 Salford Red Devils
Evalds, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Turner, Trueman, Richardson, Griffin, McShane, Massey, Holmes, Millington, Milner
Watts, Smith, Martin, O’Brien
Tries: Smith, Mata’utia, Shenton
Conversions: Richardson (2/2), O’Brien (1/1)
Drop Goal: O‘Brien
Sin Bin: O’Brien, Watts
Salford Red Devils
Sarginson, Sio, Watkins, Livett, Williams, Lolohea, Brown, Mossop, Addy, Ikahihifo, Greenwood, Pauli Pauli, Taylor
Atkin, Burke, Lannon, Ormondroyd
Tries: Livett (2), Mossop
Conversions: Livett (3/3)
*Match report by Sam Armstrong
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