Castleford Tigers’ thrilling season ended in disappointment when they were beaten 30-14 by Warrington Wolves to go out of the Super League play-offs at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
Daryl Powell’s men could never quite recover their best form, but gave it a good go and were only two points behind as the game passed the hour mark.
They were once again not favoured by several controversial refereeing decisions, but were always chasing the game.
Cas got off to the worst possible start when in only the third minute Jamie Ellis - preferred at half-back to Liam Finn - saw his kick charged down by Ben Harrison and the ball dropped nicely for Ryan Atkins to collect and race clear for the first try, converted by Stefan Ratchford.
The Tigers took time to settle in their first-ever Super League play-off on their home ground, but they forced a spell of pressure as Ellis’s low kick forced a drop-out.
From the next set only Joel Monaghan’s outstretched hand prevented a likely try for Justin Carney and a minute later Craig Huby was held up over the line.
Warrington escaped conceding, however, as the pressure ended with an Andy Lynch knock-on after he tried to take an awkward pass.
The visitors made several handling errors also and Cas punished them on 25 minutes as Ellis went over for a try after his high kick had been knocked back by winger James Clare.
Marc Sneyd surprisingly missed the conversion and within three minutes Warrington had scored again, moving the ball in slick style to give Joel Monaghan space to go over in the corner for an unconverted try.
It stayed 10-4 to half-time, although the hosts went close in the last seconds when Sneyd’s kick was just palmed to safety with Carney ready to pounce.
Warrington looked the more likely to score early in the second half as they forced a drop-out and only some great cover tackling kept out Chris Bridge, driving him into touch.
It said plenty about how the visitors were being tested that when they chose to go for goal when appointed a penalty more than 40 metres out. Ratchford sent the ball between the posts to make it 12-4.
Warrington came close to another try when Roy Asotasi plunged for the line only to lose the ball in trying to ground it, the video referee confirming no try.
Within three minutes Cas were back on attack and to fantastic effect as Sneyd got his backs moving and Luke Dorn sold a terrific dummy to open up a gap and dart through it for a try.
With Sneyd converting it was game on now and the Tigers came close to another score when Sneyd’s kick on the sixth tackle just rolled into touch with Carney chasing.
But on 62 minutes the Wolves came up with a crucial score when Gareth O’Brien backed up a break down the middle to score. There was more than a hint of two forward passes in the build-up, but the try was on the scoreboard and Ratchford’s conversion made it 18-10.
Four minutes later they were over again, Rhys Evans scoring in the corner.
When Joel Monaghan then collected his second try and Ratchford goaled it was game over.
It was fitting, however, that Cas got the final try at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle when skipper Michael Shenton crossed after Oliver Holmes had collected Sneyd’s little kick.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Ellis, Dorn, Shenton; goal Sneyd. Warrington: Tries Atkins, J Monaghan 2, O’Brien, Evans; goals Ratchford 5.
Castleford: Dorn; Clare, Channing, Shenton, Carney; Sneyd, Ellis; Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Massey. Subs: Dixon, Milner, Millington, Wheeldon.
Warrington: Ratchford; J Monaghan, Bridge, Atkins, Evans; O’Brien, Myler; Hill, M Monaghan, England, Laithwaite, Waterhouse, Harrison. Subs: Higham, Asotasi, Currie, Wood.
Referee: Phil Bentham.