Shelford shows Warrington the way

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The Independent Online
If any side have a right to regard Castleford as flattered by third place in the championship, then it is Warrington, who beat them for the fourth time this season yesterday to knock them out of the Premiership.

The victory that gave them the dubious privilege of a semi-final at Wigan next weekend hinged on the contrasting fortunes of the sides in two vital departments.

Castleford had their Kiwi international stand-off, Tony Kemp, sent off in the first minute of the second half for dissent. Kemp, playing what will now be his last match for Castleford before joining Leeds next season, chose the wrong man to give a mouthful. The referee, Colin Morris, might have let various forms of mayhem go by with only the occasional reproach, but he is notoriously punctilious over verbal assaults.

Kemp's fellow New Zealander, Kelly Shelford, playing at scrum-half for Warrington despite wearing No 6, had an altogether happier afternoon and, in particular, a delirious nine minutes immediately before half-time. It was then that he almost single-handedly overturned Castleford's early domination and gave Warrington a lead they were never to lose.

Warrington had led through tries from their centres, Richie Blackmore and Richard Goddard, who had made Warrington's tackling look distinctly fallible.

In the 31st minute, however, Shelford set off on one avenue through the Castleford defence, discovered it to be a cul-de-sac and reversed to find another route to the try-line.

By half-time, his subtle passing had set up tries for Allan Bateman and Bruce McGuire, and Warrington, thanks to three conversions from Jonathon Davies, were 18-10 ahead.

That was the other crucial difference between the sides. Whereas Davies finished with six goals from six place kicks, as well as two drop goals, Lee Crooks' only success for Castleford was with his first shot. A couple more at the right time could have made all the difference to Castleford's second-half fightback, and it was no wonder that he was kicking the ground in frustration by the end.

Even with 12 men, Castleford had a good stab at rescuing the game, Blackmore's second try and one from Simon Middleton when he followed Graham Steadman's kick, giving them hope.

In between those two, however, Paul Sculthorpe went over for Warrington only two minutes after coming on as a substitute, and Castleford could never get closer than the five points they cut the gap to when Tony Smith went in with 15 minutes left.

Davies's second drop goal and a penalty when Castleford were caught offside with six minutes to play made the game safe. If there was one good thing from Castleford's point of view as their season ended, it was that they will not have to play Warrington again for some time.

Castleford: Flowers; C Smith, Blackmore, Goddard, Middleton; Kemp, T Smith; Crooks, Darley, Sampson, Morrison, (Sykes, 40; Steadman, 46) Hay, Nikau.

Warrington: Penny; Forster, Bateman (Sculthorpe, 54), Davies, Rudd; Harris, Shelford; Hilton (Tees, 65), Thursfield, Tees (Wainwright, 26), Sanderson, McGuire, Elliott.

Referee: C Morris (Huddersfield).