Castleford were ushered back into Super League by a magnificent performance by one player who will not be there with them next season. Danny Brough gave a classic scrum-half display in which he kicked superbly in open play, landed six goals and two dropped goals and played a part in a series of the Tigers' tries.
"He opted some weeks ago for the certainty of Super League with Wakefield next year and everything about his display showed how hard he's going to be to replace," his coach Terry Matterson said.
Brough enjoyed himself last night right from the moment Ryan McGoldrick initiated the attack that ended with Mick Cassidy's high shot on Awen Guttenbeil that gave him his first two points. Anthony Thackeray was close to claiming the game's first try. As it was, Brough kicked a second penalty after his half-back partner had the ball stolen from him. Brough's kicking was a torment to Widnes and when Gavin Dodd fumbled a high ball in the corner, Kirk Dixon was again close to the first Cas try. It was only a matter of time before it arrived and when it did it was Michael Wainwright, brought on for the injured Danny Williams, who got over.
There was already an air of nonchalance in the way that Brough put over a drop goal and then drove a 40/20 kick almost to the Widnes try line. The defence was on its back foot once more and Thackeray's pass and McGoldrick's little step was all that was needed for a second try from the Tigers.
Widnes, in their first real spell of pressure, came up with points when the prolific Mick Nanyn used his strength to force the ball down. Nanyn almost got over again at the start of the second half but Brough put Widnes back in their place with a wonderful instinctive piece of play, his chip and regather before finding Guttenbeil in support was of the highest quality. The same could be said of the lightning pass to Michael Shenton for the fourth Castleford try or his second drop goal before Joe Westerman got over. Cas were running riot now with Ryan Clayton getting over in the corner.
Oliver Wilkes got one back for Widnes, but who would be Steve McCormack at grand final time? It was the fourth time he had tasted defeat on the big occasion. "It's hard to take," McCormack admitted. "It's not about me, it's about the club and we've saved our worst performance for the most important game."
Castleford: Donlan, Williams, Shenton, McGoldrick, Dixon, Thackeray, Brough, Higgins, Henderson, Guttenbeil, Westerman, Clayton, Lupton. Substitutes used: Leafa, Charles, Wainwright, Boyle.
Widnes: Grix, Blanch, Cohe-Love, Nanyn, Dodd, Moran, Penny, Cassidy, Smith, Wilkes, Tomkins, Moone, Beswick. Substitutes used: Summers, James, Webster, Doran.
Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).