A magnificent hat-trick of long range tries by Daryl Clark helped Castleford Tigers to a 40-20 victory away to their Challenge Cup semi-final opponents Widnes Vikings.
Clark led the way in a terrific attacking display by the Tigers who were back to somewhere near their best to move back into third place in the First Utility Super League.
The key was a fast start that saw Daryl Powell’s men open up an 18-point lead in the first 10 minutes, but Widnes got back to within six points twice only for Cas to come up with classy scores to confirm their superiority.
A cracking first half began in superb fashion for Castleford when they opened up an 18-0 lead in just 10 minutes.
Their first set brought them a try as Jamie Ellis ran through a gap and his offload sent Luke Dorn over.
Marc Sneyd added the conversion and within two minutes was kicking a second goal after Oliver Holmes raced in for another try, backing up Michael Shenton’s excellent break.
A third try followed in the tenth minute when the Tigers went the length of the field. Kirk Dixon collected the ball on his own line and ran it out in great fashion before timing his pass perfectly to send Daryl Clark racing clear. Sneyd’s third goal made it 18-0 and a better start could not have been envisaged.
Widnes finally got a foothold in the game and scored their first try in the 15th minute, Kevin Brown’s fine looped pass sending winger Paddy Flynn over in the corner. Danny Tickle added the touchline conversion and it was game on now.
Cas missed a great chance when Grant Millington made a half-break only to send a forward pass out to the supporting Clark. Widnes then bombed an opportunity soon after with Cameron Phelps’ forward pass to Patrick Ah Van.
The game was being played at a frantic pace and there was little respite for the Tigers when the hosts forced a drop-out. From the following set the Vikings then scored again with Danny Galea charging through several tackles on a strong run to the line.
Tickle’s conversion brought the gap down to six points, but Cas struck again on 35 minutes through a bit of magic from Sneyd who collected his own chip forward, scooping the ball up one-handed before timing a pass perfectly to send skipper Shenton charging over for a great try.
Sneyd could not add the conversion this time and the teams went in at half-time at 22-12 to Cas.
The second half started in more conservative fashion from both teams before Widnes came up with a try 10 minutes in when Rhys Hanbury made a great break and Ah Van followed it up to finish the move with a strong burst that saw him run through Dorn.
Tickle was unable to add the goal, but the gap was down to six points.
Ah Van appeared to have scored again six minutes later when he raced 90 metres downfield after intercepting a pass near his own line, but a massive call went the Tigers’ way when he was harshly adjudged to have been offside.
Relieved Cas made the most of their fortune as just after the hour they came up with what turned out to be the gamebreaking try.
And what a try it was as Clark took the ball from acting half with nothing apparently on, but proceeded to race more than 50 metres on a weaving run to the line for one of the scores of the season.
Sneyd’s goal made it 28-16 and it was effectively game over on 66 minutes when the home defence was scattered by a Weller Hauraki break from a dropped Widnes pass and the ball was swiftly moved left where Shenton galloped over.
Sneyd goaled again and made it six kicks from seven after Clark completed his hat-trick on 73 minutes. It was another terrific solo effort by the 21-year-old hooker as he scooped up a loose ball and raced clean away from half-way
Widnes did score their fourth try through Chris Dean, but it was only as consolation.
Scorers - Widnes: Tries Flynn, Galea, Ah Van, Dean; goals Tickle 2. Castleford: Tries Dorn, Holmes, Clark 3, Shenton 2; goals Sneyd 6.
Widnes: Hanbury; Ah Van, Phelps, Dean, Flynn; Brown, Mellor; Gerrard, Clarke, Kavanagh, Galea, Tickle, Cahill. Subs: Isa, Leuluai, White, Allen
Castleford: Dorn; Dixon, Channing, Shenton, Carney; Sneyd, Ellis; Lynch, Clark, Huby; Holmes, Hauraki, Millington. Subs: Milner, Massey, Jewitt, Carvell.
Referee: Phil Bentham.