Castleford cruise to cup final
Castleford cruised to the Challenge Cup final with a 28-6 win over Widnes at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday.
Tries from Liam Finn, Daryl Clark, Kirk Dixon, Jake Webster and substitute Jamie Ellis saw the Tigers progress to face Leeds in the final at Wembley on August 23rd, with Jack Owens running in a late consolation for the Vikings.
It is the first final for the Tigers since 1992 as they seek to lift the trophy last won in 1986, when they beat Hull KR.
But the occasion was marred by ugly scenes after the final hooter as Widnes fans invaded the pitch and approached the Castleford end. Some fighting did break out on the pitch but police and stewards eventually restored order.
Long before the end the Castleford fans in the sold-out 12,005 crowd had been shouting, 'Bring on the Rhinos' - a match that will have extra poignancy for Tigers coach Daryl Powell.
Powell, who has led a remarkable revival of Cas over the past year, was a member of the last Leeds side to have won the Challenge Cup in 1999 and later had a spell coaching the Rhinos.
The game was scrappy at times at a rain-lashed Leigh Sports Village, but Powell's men always had the upper hand.
The combinations between the key quartet of four-goal Marc Sneyd, Finn, Luke Dorn and Clark were superior to anything Widnes offered.
The writing was on the wall early as the Tigers adapted to the poor conditions and earned reward after just five minutes.
The influential Clark found Dorn and his pass enabled Finn to burst through the line and race clear to the posts.
The early blast continued four minutes later when Cas claimed a second try as Clark ran from dummy half and exchanged passes with Sneyd to touch down in the corner.
Widnes might have conceded a third soon after as Dixon pounced following a high kick by Finn but video referee Phil Bentham spotted a touch from Webster in the build-up.
Castleford's charge was tempered when prop Craig Huby was forced off with what was later confirmed as a dislocated elbow following a clash with team-mate Nathan Massey.
But they continued to peg back the subdued Vikings and forced a drop-out when Rhys Hanbury spilled possession.
Widnes finally produced a meaningful attack after 25 minutes as Chris Dean drove close to the line but Frankie Mariano led a swift Tigers counter-attack.
Another promising position was lost when Joe Mellor dropped a difficult Kevin Brown pass but the Vikings generally struggled to get their game going.
Dixon increased their misery before the break as he stepped inside from the right touchline to beat the last defender and score a third try after some good handling Mariano and Dorn.
Danny Tickle drove Widnes to within inches of the line as they looked to pull one back just before the hooter but he could not hold on.
Castleford tightened their grip after the break and seemed to have put the game beyond Widnes as former Leigh player Ellis, back on his old ground, darted through from dummy half.
After that Castleford just needed to play out time. Sneyd added a penalty and Widnes efforts to fight back were thwarted when Stefan Marsh had a try disallowed by the video referee.
Webster found his way over to put the seal on victory for the Tigers but the Vikings pulled one back at the close when Owens touched down in the corner, converting his own score.