Rugby League: Sampson propels Castleford

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The Independent Online
Castleford Tigers 39 Warrington Wolves 6

CASTLEFORD, SET an inspiring example by their captain, Dean Sampson, left no possible doubt about which of these sides is the genuine play- off contender. Putting some recent setbacks behind them yesterday, Cas overran the team immediately above them in the Super League table before kick-off, with three tries from Francis Maloney. Their real superiority, however, came from Warrington's inability to wrest control down the middle.

From their blistering start onwards, Castleford did little wrong in the first half as they worked last week's defeat at Wakefield out of their system. A Darren Rogers try was disallowed for a forward pass even before their first legitimate effort after two minutes, set up by Brad Hepi's charge from dummy-half and scored by Danny Orr.

Four minutes later Brad Davis's precise kick to the corner saw Richard Gay appear in perfect time to touch down and little more than midway through the half Gay was over again after excellent work by Orr and Maloney.

Castleford were making light of the absence of three key members of their pack, Sampson, surely the best prop in Super League on this form, seemingly punching holes at will. It was from one of his surges, carried on by Nathan Sykes, that Castleford claimed their fourth try. This contained a strong element of luck, a pass from Gareth Dobson, on for the injured Hepi, coming off the outstretched hands of Lee Penny for Maloney to seize his opportunity.

Warrington's plight was made worse by Orr landing all four conversions, two of them from the touchline, and there was a mocking extra when Davis chipped over a drop goal before half-time.

Lee Briers sparked Warrington into some semblance of life after the break, one lovely piece of play almost creating a try for Dean Hanger and another sending Toa Kohe-Love in for one that did count.

Nobody at either end of the ground seriously believed in the possibility of a fightback, but Cas soon restored their handsome margin. Again it was the barnstorming Sampson who was largely responsible as he picked up a knock on from John Roper, rampaged through and fed Maloney for his second.

It got steadily worse for Warrington, with Michael Wainwright sent to the sin bin for trying to slow down play, Danny Ellison adding another try and Maloney completing his first senior hat-trick on his return from a fractured cheekbone.

Equally notable was Sampson completing his full 80 minutes at the heart of the action, contrary to all modern fashions for front rowers.

"The experienced guys had to pull out a big performance and he was on fire," said his coach, Stuart Raper. "I wouldn't have dared take him off."

Castleford Tigers: Flowers; Gay, Eagar, Maloney, Rogers; Orr, Davis; Sampson, Hepi, Sykes, Tallec, Hill, Fritz. Substitutes used: Pickering, Ellison, Lynch, Dobson.

Warrington Wolves: Penny; Hanger, Kohe-Love, Roper, Hunte; Wilson, Briers; Chambers, Farrar, Nutley, Busby, Gillies, Wainwright. Substitutes used: Roach, Duffy, Knott, Leatham.

Referee: N Oddy (Halifax).