Challenge Cup: Daryl Clark lives up to his billing as Castleford book Wembley date

Widnes 6 Castleford 28

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The Independent Online

Castleford’s season, already their best for almost 30 years, got even better as they  qualified for the Tetley’s  Challenge Cup final in 13 days’ time in some style.

The Tigers, for whom life has been a precarious roller-coaster of late, were last at Wembley in 1986. There was never a minute’s doubt yesterday that they would be making a belated return against a Widnes outclassed 28-6.

Crowd trouble marred their moment of glory as disgruntled Vikings supporters invaded the pitch after the final hooter and approached rival fans at the opposite end in a provocative manner.

Some violence did break out as police and stewards attempted to quell the disturbance. When the pitch was cleared the Castleford players returned to pay tribute to their fans – but by then the heavy rain which had affected much of the game had returned.

Their victory owed much to a big contribution from one of the men they fear they might lose this winter, Daryl Clark.

The 21-year-old hooker twice showed in the first 10 minutes why he is one of the sport’s hottest properties. First he raced out of dummy-half in the defence-splitting way he has made so familiar this season. Luke Dorn supported and Liam Finn finished off. If Widnes were hoping Jake Webster might be penalised for obstructing Kevin Brown in the build-up, they were hoping in vain.

The second Castleford try was like an excerpt from Ye Olde Book of Rugby League Set Moves. Clark passed from dummy-half and went on a wide runaround to take the ball from Marc Sneyd and touch it down.

If that was a training ground move, it was one that would have looked more at home at training on a Tuesday or Thursday night when rugby league was still a part-time occupation, such was its simplicity.

The Tigers could have had a quick third, but Kirk Dixon was denied by Webster’s knock-on. A more serious setback, though, was the loss of prop Craig Huby, the cornerstone of their pack, with a dislocated elbow.

That did not stop them going further ahead by half-time, lovely handling from Frankie Mariano and Dorn putting Dixon over in the corner. It was typical of  Castleford’s expansive play.

There was even more  misery for the Vikings seven minutes into the second half when, after a couple of penalties had cranked the pressure up, Jamie Ellis sold a big dummy to go over.

A conversion and penalty from Sneyd made the score look as comfortable as it was even before Webster’s  converted try, created by slick inter-play with Dixon. Jack Owens’ try averted a  whitewash near the end, but it was of little consolation.

Widnes Hanbury; Flynn, Dean, Marsh, Owen; Brown, Mellor; Gerrard, Clarke, Kavanagh, Galea, Tickle, Cahill.

Substitutes used Allen, O’Carroll, White, Isa. 

Castleford Dorn; Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Clare; Sneyd, Finn; Huby, Clark, Lynch, Holmes, Massey, Mariano.

Substitutes used Wheeldon, Ellis, Jewitt, Carvell. Referee R Silverwood.