Castleford 19-18 Salford: Gareth O’Brien drop goal sees Tigers reach semis

Daryl Powell will have to mastermind the Challenge Cup exit of his future employers if he is to mark his final season as Castleford coach with a trip to Wembley.

A dramatic 19-18 win over last year’s beaten finalists Salford in the last of the quarter-finals set up a semi-final showdown with Warrington, who will be coached by Powell in 2022 when he takes over from Steve Price.

If the Tigers go on to lift the cup for the first time since 1986, they will look back at a gritty, resolute defensive display which finally saw off a spirited Red Devils in a cup tie of high drama.

They did not take the lead until the hour mark and were briefly down to 11 men in the closing stages with Gareth O’Brien and Liam Watts both in the sin bin for separate offences.

Salford’s veteran half-back Kevin Brown and skipper Lee Mossop were both held up over the line as the Red Devils pressed to keep the result in doubt and Mossop eventually crashed over for a try with 12 seconds left of normal time, Harvey Livett’s goal locking up the scores to force extra time.

Drop-goal expert Gareth O’Brien, who landed the golden point drop goal in Castleford’s win over Hull KR in the previous round, repeated the heroics in the third minute of extra time to finally see his through to the last four.

There was little hint of the drama to come in the early stages when Castleford enjoyed all the early pressure without finding the composure or the finishing to make it count for much.

The slow-starting Red Devils began to work their way into the contest and took the lead with a 15th-minute try from centre Livett, who pounced after Brown’s high kick deceived both full-back Niall Evalds and winger Derrell Olpherts.

Livett converted his own try and hooker Danny Addy almost added another try when he burrowed his way to the line only to lose his grip on the ball.

Harvey Livett was on kicking duties for Salford

The Tigers immediately made the most of the let-off as substitute forward Daniel Smith took Paul McShane’s pass from dummy half to plunge over for a try with only his second touch of the ball.

Danny Richardson’s conversion levelled the scores and there was a flurry of activity before half-time as the two teams traded tries.

Castleford ought to have gone in front when substitute prop Watts burst over the line but he put the ball on the foot of Addy and the try was disallowed.

Salford took play up to the other end with the aid of a penalty and second rower James Greenwood worked Livett over for his second try which he once more converted.

The Tigers made light of the difficult conditions and Olpherts missed a glorious try scoring opportunity by failing to control the ball over the line before Watts combined with fellow front rower Grant Millington to get centre Peter Mata’utia over on the stroke of half-time.

Richardson’s second goal locked the scores up and the score gave the Tigers an extra spring in their step at the start of the second half.

Danny Richardson adds a goal for Castleford

They ought to have gone in front when skipper Michael Shenton won the race to Richardson’s grubber kick but he lost the ball in Ken Sio’s crunching last-ditch tackle.

However, Shenton was not to be denied for he supported a break by hooker McShane to go over on the hour and former Salford half-back O’Brien, freshly onto the field in place of Richardson, kicked the touchline conversion.

That was only the start of a frenzied final quarter, however.

Castleford were reduced to 12 men when O’Brien was sin-binned for obstructing Chris Atkin in pursuit of Tui Lolohea’s grubber kick and they survived a scare when Brown forced his way over the line, only to be held up by Adam Milner.

McShane failed with a drop goal attempt before Watts joined O’Brien in the bin for a late tackle on Elijah Taylor and Mossop’s last-gasp try set the scene for O’Brien’s latest heroics.

Castleford: Evalds; Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Turner; Trueman, Richardson; Griffin, McShane, Massey, Holmes, Millington, Milner. Subs: Watts, Smith, Martin, O’Brien.

Tries: Smith, Mata’utia, Shenton Goals: Richardson 2, O’Brien 1 Drop Goals: O’Brien 1

Salford: Sarginson; Sio, Watkins, Livett, Williams; Lolohea, Brown; Mossop, Addy, Ikahihifo, Greenwood, Pauli, Taylor. Subs: Atkin, Ormondroyd, Lannon, Burke.

Tries: Livett (2), Mossop Goals: Livett 3

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