Castleford Tigers moved back up to third place in the Betfred Super League table as they beat Wembley-bound Warrington Wolves 28-18.
In a game played in surprisingly cool conditions there were several fine individual displays for the Tigers, but they made hard work of beating their top four rivals after opening up a 16-0 half-time lead.
Cas were ahead from the eighth minute as an impressive right edge passing move finished with Peter Mata’utia’s cut out pass sending James Clare over in the corner for a try to mark his 100th career appearance.
Jamie Ellis was unable to add the conversion in windy conditions from the touchline, but kicked a penalty on 16 minutes to take the lead out to 16-0.
It took Warrington 18 minutes to put a serious attack together and it ended with Kevin Brown’s grubber kick rolling out over the back line.
A good move from the Tigers ended in Greg Eden going close from Michael Shenton’s pass, but Cas stretched their lead when Paul McShane’s clever little grubber kick was pounced on by Junior Moors to plant the ball down over the line. Ellis’s goal made it 12-0.
Sitaleki Akauola was held up over the line as the Wolves briefly threatened and Daryl Clark’s kick forced a goalline drop-out with Joe Wardle getting back to bat the ball out of play.
Cas survived the pressure with good defending and Mata’utia saved them close to half-time with a fantastic one-on-one tackle on Stefan Ratchford after the visitors’ full-back had made a clean break and only had his Tigers opposite number to beat.
Right on half-time the Tigers got a break when Eden intercepted Brown’s pass and raced down the touchline from half-way, timing his dive perfectly to get the ball down over the line. Ellis could not convert, but the hosts went in 16-0 up at the break.
Warrington started the second half strongly, forcing an early drop-out then scoring their first points from the following set with Ratchford touching down Brown’s clever kick.
Ratchford converted and the pressure was maintained with the Tigers not getting their hands on the ball for 10 minutes.
In that period another drop-out was forced and Bryson Goodwin went over from Brown’s pass. With Ratchford again goaling it was 16-12 and game on.
Cas finally enjoyed some possession and went close with Eden on the left wing, but he put a foot in touch trying to go over in the corner.
McShane’s grubber kick was then well defended on the line.
The Wolves defence cracked, however, on the hour as McShane’s crossfield kick was collected by Eden, who shrugged off a tackler before touching down for a vital try to which Ellis added a touchline conversion.
Another try followed when Mike McMeeken swerved round the last man after Shenton did well to create space for him to attack the line. Ellis added another goal to make it 28-12.
The Tigers could not add further scores, although they forced two drop-outs and Liam Watts was held up over the line. Mitch Clark almost wriggled over from close range, but the video referee ruled no try.
Warrington scored a late consolation when Ratchford touched down Dec Patton’s kick and Patton added the conversion to complete the scoring at 28-18.
McShane, Watts, Shenton and Mata’utia, on his home debut, were all impressive for the tigers, but they know they will have to be a bit sharper if they are to reach the Grand Final.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Clare, Moors, Eden 2, McMeeken; goals Ellis 4. Warrington: Tries Ratchford 2, Goodwin goals Ratchford 2, Patton.
Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia; Clare, Webster, Shenton, Eden; Ellis, Trueman; Watts, McShane, Millington, Wardle, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: Moors, Holmes, Clark, Turner.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Lineham, T King, Goodwin, M Brown; K Brown, Roberts; Hill, Clark, Cooper, Thompson, Hughes, G King. Subs: Philbin, Akauola, Patton, Pomeroy.
Referee: Gareth Hewer.