PROLIFIC Greg Eden scored yet another hat-trick to help Castleford Tigers secure third spot after the final regular round of Super League.
The 27-year-old memorably crossed for trebles in four successive games last term when he was the competition’s top scorer but has been hampered by injury issues this time around.
However, he claimed his first hat-trick of 2018 - including two interceptions - to inflict yet more woe on Widnes Vikings who finish bottom after a 16th consecutive league defeat.
Daryl Powell’s Castleford side quickly banished the memory of the previous week’s disappointment against Huddersfield Giants to run in nine tries against their hapless opponents.
Sitting just a point behind second-placed Wigan Warriors, they will certainly feel confident of chasing them down by the end of the Super 8s to secure a home semi-final although they are still seeking consistency.
At times, they were unplayable here, especially during a ruthless spell of four tries in just seven first-half minutes, but, when discipline waned, they did offer Widnes chances.
They overcame a slow start to go into the break 28-18 ahead in thanks, largely, to that devastating sequence of scores.
They had trailed 12-4 despite Widnes seeing Krisnan Inu sin-binned in the third minute for a dangerous tackle.
Eden initially made the extra man count with a sharp finish but the 12-man hosts responded when ex-Bradford Bulls winger Patrick Ah Van got in for his 100th try in the British game.
Liam Finn - the veteran Wakefield Trinity half-back on debut after joining on loan - proved influential in the build-up and did so again when grubbering through for Rhys Hanbury to cross.
Ah Van and Inu slotted the conversions but the game turned against them in the 22nd minute.
Joe Mellor darted down the blindside on halfway looking to unleash his winger Ryan Ince but the pass was plucked out of the air by Eden who raced in at the other end for his second.
Jamie Ellis slotted the first of his eight goals, taking his career tally to 1,000 points in the process, and Powell’s side then turned up the heat.
When Widnes failed to deal with Jake Trueman’s lofted kick, Paul McShane sent out a giant pass to Peter Mata’utia, the Samoan full-back who debuted at centre after joining from Leigh Centurions last week.
Mata’utia showed some lovely footwork to leave Widnes floored and Trueman supported for a fine try.
Better was still to come; straight from the restart, Tigers scored a spectacular length-of-the-field effort as Mike McMeeken slipped Quentin Laulu Togaga’e racing through from his own 20m line.
Ellis did not have the legs to finish but Trueman offered the link and Togaga’e rounded off.
The ex-Sheffield Eagles full-back immediately added another when Eden tip-toed down his flank and kicked infield, Ellis suddenly taking the score to 28-12 and leaving their foes dejected.
That said, Harrison Hansen, the former Wigan second-row who also left during the Leigh exodus last week, slipped through Ellis’ attempted tackle to score on his debut just before the break, Inu converting.
However, once Oli Holmes celebrated his England Knights call-up by surging in from 40m off Trueman’s pass in the 45th minute, Castleford’s victory was confirmed.
Mitch Clark, the former Bradford Bulls prop who proved a real handful off the bench, got his first try in Castleford colours before Eden completed his treble, picking off Finn’s obvious pass for a 90m score.
Finn, to his credit, atoned by delivering a fine kick for Ah Van to claim his second try late on but Adam Milner, called up by England last week, had the final word burrowing over at the death, the only downside the sight of Mata’utia limping off with a calf issue.
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury; Ince, Inu, Whitley, Ah Van; Mellor, Finn; J Chapelhow, Walker, Olbison, Dean, Hansen, Hauraki. Substitutes: Leuluai, Farnworth, Craven, T Chapelhow.
Castleford Tigers: Laulu-Togaga’e; Clare, Mata’utia, Shenton, Eden; Ellis, Trueman; Watts, McShane, Massey, Holmes, McMeeken, Milner. Substitutes: Moores, Sene-Lefao, Clark, Turner.
Referee: Liam Moore (Wigan)