The Challenge Cup will have its first all-West Yorkshire final in 40 years, after Castleford Tigers destroyed Widnes Vikings to book their place alongside Leeds Rhinos at Wembley in two weeks.
Cas were dominant from start to finish, and a remarkable effort from Daryl Powell’s men advanced them to the Wembley showpiece for the first time in the modern era, as they look to enhance an incredible 2014 by winning some silverware.
It took the Tigers just five minutes to break the deadlock; a superb offload from Daryl Clark eventually put Liam Finn away, and he outpaced Kevin Brown to race home and open the scoring. The weather was far from August-like, and that was making conditions incredibly difficult. And after Jack Owens spilled the ball on his own line, the Tigers pounced again when Clark barged his way over to put Cas in control.
It could have been more for the Tigers, but a Kirk Dixon score was chalked off by the video referee shortly after, when it was adjudged that Jake Webster had knocked-on.
The errors were creeping into Widnes’ game; on two different occasions they dropped the ball right on their own line, as swirling wind and driving rain made handling the ball incredibly tough. However, the Vikings muscled up in defence well, and managed to keep the Tigers at bay.
Midway through the first period though, the Tigers picked up a huge blow – as forward Craig Huby left the field with a nasty looking arm injury that forced Daryl Powell into a reshuffle. That didn’t deter the Tigers though, as they posted their third score of the afternoon with just seven minutes left in the half. The Tigers shifted the ball quickly, and Kirk Dixon managed to sidestep Jack Owens before diving in at the corner. Cas were in complete control – and the scoreboard reflected it.
Castleford started the second period just as brightly as they did the first, and the procession of points continued when Jamie Ellis danced his way over to register Cas’ fourth try of the afternoon.
Widnes were trying their hardest, but they just couldn’t force their way through an incredibly resolute Cas defence. The Tigers were looking more and more like the probably victors as the minutes rolled on and, with 15 minutes left on the clock, Sneyd nailed a routine penalty goal to stretch the lead out to 22.
The Vikings thought they had finally got over – and given themselves a chance – shortly after, when Stefan Marsh crashed over the line. However, some incredible defence from the Tigers held him up, and the chance passed. It would prove costly, as just two minutes later, Jake Webster crashed over to confirm what everyone had known for a good hour – Castleford are heading to Wembley.
There was still time for Widnes to finally breach the Castleford line; a smart, slick handling move put Jack Owens in to ensure Widnes at least wouldn’t suffer the ignominy of being nilled in a semi-final. However, this was Cas’ day, and they saw the remainder of the game out to confirm their return to Wembley.