It was written in the 'shooting' stars that tonight would be the night that the Castleford Tigers would get within a mathematical whisker of the minor premiership as they travelled to the A J Bell Stadium in Salford to take on a Red Devils side desperate for the two points.
Depending on results elsewhere, a win could lift the Red Devils into fourth, but a loss could see them losing touch with the play-off places. Castleford were looking to avoid a second consecutive loss and the bookies favoured them taking the points with some ease.
It would come down to which side wanted it the most.
Salford had a try ruled out for an obstruction on five minutes but after the home side conceded a penalty the Tigers rolled downfield and three tackles in Paul McShane fed Zak Hardaker to weave through the line to score. Luke Gale added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
Both sides had on-field tries ruled out by the video referee before a breakaway try from Hardaker on twenty-five as he took a Jy Hitchcox pass to go thirty metres at full speed to score under the sticks. Gale added the extra two to extend the lead to twelve points.
Gale kicked a 40-20 on twenty-eight but Oliver Holmes lost the ball on the second tackle.
The Red Devils finished the game camped inside the Tigers twenty but they went into the sheds scoreless and trailing to the Minor Premiers elect. While they were two tries behind they’d had a good half and could have easily been level.
The second half was just two minutes old when Manu Vatuvei got one hand on a Todd Carney grubber kick to score a split second before the ball rolled dead in goal. Carney failed to add the conversion leaving Salford still eight adrift.
Ryan Lannon went close on fifty-six but couldn’t get the ball on the ground thanks to tackling heroics from Hardaker and two minutes later Paul McShane burrowed over the line after a ten metre scoot from acting half back. Gale added the goal and after earlier signs of a Salford revival the wind had been knocked from their sail.
The result was put beyond doubt on sixty-three thanks to some Hardaker magic as the full-back broke downfield, exchanged a pass with Gale and then threw out a long pass to Hitchcox to dive in ten metres from the left corner flag. Gale missed for the first time in the game for 22-4.
A Luke Gale drop goal on seventy-five extended the lead to 23-4 to add the icing to the Tigers cake.
Despite the small blip at the start of the second half, the Tigers were in total control of the second forty and despite Salford holding their own in the first half Castleford looked good for the win and the two points. With a massive points difference advantage over the Rhinos tonight’s win virtually assures the league leadership with five games to play.
With Saints losing to Hull FC and Wigan beating the Giants, FC are now within a point of the Rhinos in third while Wakefield hold on to fourth spot after their big win over the Rhinos last night.
Devils:Evalds, Johnson, Bibby, Jones, Vatuvei (T), Lui, Carney, Walne, Tomkins, Hauraki, Murdoch-Masila, Lannon, Kopczak. Subs: Griffin, Brinning, Krasniqi, Murray.
Tigers: Hardaker (2T), Monaghan, Minikin, Webster, Hitchcox (T), Roberts, Gale (3G, DG), Millington, McShane (T), Sene-Lefeo, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: Milner, Cook, Foster, Springer.
Referee: Chris Kendall.