Castleford Tigers 22
CASTLEFORD DISPLAYED few doubts about their ability to make the Super League play-offs, closing the gap that separates them from Gateshead and fifth place to two points with a convincing win at one of their least favourite venues.
Given their record of never having won at the Don Valley Stadium in Super League, this qualified as one of their trickiest fixtures between now and the business end of the season.
It never looked that way last night, with Castleford taking early control and never even considering relinquishing it, despite going off the boil as an attacking force for much of the second half.
Sheffield did their best to get them started, Chris Thorman kicking out on the full after only a couple of minutes to give Castleford the scrum from which Michael Eagar went over for their first try.
The Eagles did manage to exert some territorial pressure after that, without ever looking seriously like scoring. By contrast, Castleford were always capable of breaking tackles through their forwards and always looked incisive at halfback.
After Francis Maloney was held up over the try-line, it was merely a matter of time before they claimed a second try and a fine one it was, Dale Fritz starting the move with a short ball to Maloney and Richard Gay arriving in support to send Aaron Raper over. Danny Orr, having an unusually poor day with his kicking, landed his only goal of the game.
Two tries from Darren Rogers, the first of them the 100th of his career, then gave Cas a match-winning lead. A cleverly angled little kick from Orr set up that milestone effort, although Dale Cardoza should have hacked the ball clear before Rogers swooped on it to score.
Almost immediately after half-time the former Salford winger struck again, getting on to the end of an attack in which Brad Davis handled twice to take the scrum-half's pass and go over in the corner.
To give a team with absolutely nothing to play for during the remainder of this season due credit, Sheffield showed no inclination to roll over. Perhaps more to the point was that Cas lost much of their sharp edge with the game already safely won. Their handling became ragged and they showed a lack of cohesion.
Their coach, Stuart Raper, will extract a good deal of pleasure from holding their opponents scoreless, however, and with four minutes to play, a Dean Sampson try rounded off matters nicely. Their substitute, Spencer Hargrave, made much of the running, but Sampson was all power as he barged his way over from 10 yards out.
Davis, like Maloney before him, failed to improve on Orr's goalkicking, but this was a night when the extras were optional and Castleford could head home reasonably satisfied.
"I will be disappointed if we carry on playing this way and don't make the top five," said Raper.
Sheffield: Watson; Sodje, Cardoza, Senior, Crowther; Thorman, Stephens; Molloy, Lawless, Laughton, Shaw, Turner, Doyle. Substitutes: Hardy, Jackson, Lovell, Sovatabua.
Castleford: Flowers; Gay, Eagar, Maloney, Rogers; Orr, Davis; Sykes, Raper, Sampson, Harland, Fritz, Vowles. Substitutes: Hepi, Smith, Tallec, Hargrave.
Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).Reuse content