After a superb 23-0 victory over Wigan in the Challenge Cup and with 11 wins from 12, Warrington went into their fixture against Castleford as red-hot favourites. Coupled with the fact that the Tigers were without eight key first-team players and all the signs pointed to a runaway Warrington victory. But, this is a Castleford side made of stern stuff; after a 42-14 hammering of Hull KR the week before, something appears to have clicked - regardless of the quality still sat on the sidelines.


Just when Castleford fans felt like the preparations for the Warrington fixture could not have got any worse - the Tigers were still without Junior Moors, Jake Webster, Luke Gale, Ben Roberts - Liam Watts and Jamie Ellis did not even make the 19-man squad due to injury.

Adding to the woe, Greg Eden and Paul McShane were both ruled out on the Friday morning - just hours before kick-off.

This meant that not only would new signing Quentin Laulu-Togaga'e be making his Super League debut, he would be making it in in the wholly unfamiliar position of stand-off, whilst youngster Calum Turner was given just hours to prepare for what would be his first top-flight foray as a fullback.

The game itself

A 0-12 lead after Mike McMeeken and Turner had both prospered from kicks was wiped out by the half-hour mark with the Wolves hitting back to lead 20-12. Just when things seemed to be going awry for the Tigers, a brilliant right-to-left move saw Turner feed skipper Michael Shenton with a neat one-handed offload who in turn passed to Jy Hitchcox.

Turner's brilliant touchline conversion meant the Tigers were just two points down at 20-18, despite scoring one less try. A Turner penalty goal before half-time levelled the scores in what had been a rip-roaring first-half.

The Tigers were put under the cosh once more at the start of the second-half when Adam Milner took a Warrington player out off the ball.

Down to 12 men, a lesser team would have collapsed and, although Josh Charnley sent the Wolves into the lead once more at 24-20, Castleford always looked like they had more in the tank.

The Tigers now took the game to the Wolves and, just after the hour mark, scored what was arguably the try of the night. Castleford shipped the ball through a number of hands until Shenton skipped his way across the line, feeding the impressive Jesse Sene-Lefao who offloaded brilliantly to debutant QLT to score his first Super League try at the age of 33.

QLT was again involved just four minutes later as the Tigers extended their lead to 20-32. Taking the ball to the line, the Samoan stepped past one defender and fed the charging Oliver Holmes to send the Castleford fans behind the posts into ecstasy. Warrington did reply through Josh Charnley on 70 minutes before an Adam Milner penalty goal - yes, you read that right - calmed the nerves with six to go.


So much had gone wrong during the buildup to the game and even during the game itself that only the most confident of Castleford fans could have predicted such a valiant win. But, Castleford look as if they are peaking at just the right time; last season, by the time the play-offs came around, the Tigers appeared to be running out of steam.

In 2018 they have been inconsistent at best, yet they are now level on points with third-placed Warrington with a game still in hand.

It was a victory worth celebrating; the true grit on display, the enthusiasm and skill shown by the 16 Tigers that took to the field (Will Maher was an unused substitute) was simply out of the top draw. QLT and Mitch Clark showed up very well on their debuts whilst Calum Turner laid down his credentials to become first-choice fullback. Throughout 2018, Castleford have been crying out for a specialist No.1, now they have two and it will be interesting to see whom head coach Daryl Powell chooses to fill what had originally been a huge gap.