Castleford Tigers ended their 22-year wait for a Wembley trip when they produced another outstanding display to beat Widnes Vikings 28-6 in their Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final at a vibrant Leigh Sports Village.
Widnes barely got a look in as Daryl Powell’s men matched their quarter-final display to dominate pretty much from start to finish.
From one to 17 the Tigers were heroic and executed their game plan to near perfection despite having three big players missing and then losing another one, Craig Huby, to injury in the first 15 minutes.
Castleford made a dream start when they went ahead in the fifth minute as Daryl Clark made a trademark dart from acting half, Luke Dorn backed up and Liam Finn raced clear from half-way for a great try converted by Marc Sneyd.
Four minutes later they struck again as Clark went over following a well rehearsed runaround move with Sneyd.
Sneyd could not convert, but Cas stayed on top and were unlucky to see another try chalked off by the video referee after Finn’s high kick just flicked off Jake Webster before Kirk Dixon collected to touch the ball down.
The Tigers suffered a blow on 15 minutes when Huby, who had a superb start, was forced to leave the field with a dislocated elbow, but they kept up their good standard of play with Sneyd’s low kick earning a drop-out.
Widnes survived some heavy pressure, but rarely threatened to score aside from a late run at the line by Danny Tickle that was repelled.
Oliver Holmes came close to another Cas score when tap tackled to be brought down five metres out while James Clare’s kick ahead just ran dead.
The Tigers did get a third try on 33 minutes, however, when Dixon’s clever footwork allowed him to get over after a great fast pass by Dorn.
Sneyd failed to goal again, but a 14-0 half-time lead was every bit deserved.
Widnes forced a drop-out early in the second half as they looked to up their intensity, but they were unable to cash in and when Cas went back on the attack they came up with another score.
Jamie Ellis, just on for Clark, was sharp round a play-the-ball and spotted a gap to dive over from acting half. Sneyd’s goal made it 20-0.
A superb 40-20 kick by Ellis kept the pressure on the Vikings and they came close to another try when Clare did well to take a Sneyd chip to the corner only to lose the ball in a tackle near the line.
Cas remained in control and Finn’s high kick forced another drop-out from which Kevin Brown sent the ball straight into touch without bouncing. A penalty under the posts was the result and Sneyd duly kicked the ball between the posts to stretch the lead to 22 points.
Widnes came close soon after when Stefan Marsh was held up over the line thanks to a great effort by Oliver Holmes in particular. The video referee confirmed no try.
There were no mistakes at the other end, however, when a brilliant handling move culminated in Webster and Dixon exchanging passes for Webster to score another great try, to which Sneyd tagged on the extras.
The Wembley party was in full flow now and although Jack Owens came up with a late consolation try and conversion for the Vikings this was very definitely Castleford’s day.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Finn, Clark, Dixon, Ellis, Webster; goals Sneyd 4. Widnes: Try Owens; goal Owens.
Castleford: Dorn; Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Clare, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Mariano, Massey. Subs: Wheeldon, Ellis, Jewitt, Carvell.
Widnes: Hanbury; Flynn, Dean, Marsh, Owens; Brown, Mellor; Gerrard, Clarke, Kavanagh, Galea, Tickle, Cahill. Subs: Allen, O’Carroll, White, Isa.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.