Super League elimination final: Castleford hang on for 14-12 win over Warrington
|Betfred Super League - Elimination final|
|Warrington Wolves (0) 12|
|Try: Mamo, Hill Goal: Ratchford 2|
|Castleford Tigers (6) 14|
|Tries: Milner, Rankin Goals: Mata'utia 3|
Castleford ended Warrington's season with a hard-fought elimination final victory against the Challenge Cup holders at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Adam Milner's first-half try put Castleford 6-0 up, while Wolves had to deal with losing star half-back Blake Austin to injury at half-time.
Replacement Jake Mamo replied before Jordan Rankin again put Tigers up.
A Peter Mata'utia penalty for Castleford proved decisive as Chris Hill's late try set up a tense finish.
Stefan Ratchford's conversion got Wolves to within two points with just over 10 minutes remaining, and while he had a shot at forcing the game into golden-point extra time with a penalty late on his effort from long distance fell short.
Castleford now move into the second week of the play-offs with another do-or-die clash against the loser of Friday's qualifying final between Wigan and Salford.
- Relive Castleford's elimination final win against Warrington
- All eyes on Old Trafford - BBC Radio 5 Live Rugby League podcast previews the play-offs
Both sides were robbed of key personnel before kick-off because of suspension, with Wolves' former England scrum-half Matty Smith serving a one-game ban while Tigers forward Jesse Sene-Lefao sat out the first of two games after his red card at Wigan.
Warrington, who managed to collect the Challenge Cup trophy by upstaging St Helens in August, went into the elimination final hoping to rediscover the knockout form that saw them triumph at Wembley.
A bright start and spirited finish against Tigers, however, was not enough as their eighth Super League defeat from nine games brought their season to an end.
Ratchford had a chance to put Wolves ahead early on, but was off target with his penalty before Milner grabbed the first-half's only try by racing to meet a superbly-weighted grubber kick from Paul McShane.
Wolves' hopes took a more significant blow when Austin, one of five nominees for this year's Steve Prescott Man of Steel award, twisted his knee in a tackle, and while he limped through the latter stages of the first half he did not re-emerge after the interval.
The hosts had already proven they do not need the Australian to be successful, having won the Cup in August with him out injured, and again they looked capable of producing something memorable in his absence.
Mamo, Blake's replacement, helped level the scores with his effort in the corner to inspire hope.
And while Rankin's try edged the Tigers back into the lead soon after, it was Mata'utia's penalty that ultimately proved the difference as Hill's try 10 minutes from time was in vain.
Warrington ended the game a man short after centre Bryson Goodwin, playing his final match for the club, was sin-binned for kicking the ball away in frustration while the defeat brought to a sudden end to the distinguished career of 38-year-old former England forward Ben Westwood.
Warrington Wolves head coach Steve Price:
"It's disappointing the way we've finished. It's gut-wrenching to finish on a note like that.
"I'm really proud of the playing group for the season we've had. To go to Wembley and beat the raging favourites was phenomenal.
"We haven't really recovered from that, whether it's a hangover I'm not quite sure.
"A lot of players have been playing busted and playing with needles for a number of weeks, we've not had a weekend off for two years.
"We gave ourselves every chance, we just weren't clinical enough."
Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell:
"I'm obviously delighted. It was a huge effort from everybody. We asked our senior players for their season's best performances and they pretty much delivered it.
"If you look at the amount of high-quality players we had watching the game, it was always going to be a tough game for us.
"We showed resilience and held our nerve consistently across the game.
"We'll watch with interest what happens tomorrow and take it from there. We have a chance to keep being the surprise packet and spoiling the party as best we can."
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Lineham, Goodwin, Austin, Patton; King, Charnley; Hill, Clark, Cooper, Currie, Clark, Hughes.
Interchanges: Murdoch-Masila, Philbin, Mamo, Westwood.
Castleford Tigers: Turner; Clare, Mata'utia, Blair, Minikin; Trueman, Rankin; Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Clarkson, Smith.
Interchanges: Milner, Cook, Ellis, O'Neill.
Referee: Chris Kendall (RFL).