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Super League: Warrington Wolves see off Castleford Tigers
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Warrington took full advantage of Challenge Cup finalists Castleford's much-changed team, running out 48-10 winners at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Tigers coach Daryl Powell rested six members of his likely Wembley squad and, although his makeshift line-up were far from disgraced, they could not match their opponents' superior finishing in the second half of the contest.
The Wolves needed to win by 29 points to leapfrog Castleford into fourth place and they reached their target courtesy of Joel Monaghan's 24th Super League try of the season seven minutes from the end.
Castleford actually dominated the opening quarter, forcing three goal-line drop-outs and repeated sets, but without being able to supply the final touches to their promising build-up play.
The Wolves' defence was up to the task and they struck twice on the counter-attack to open up a 12-0 lead.
Left centre Ryan Atkins got the opening try, taking advantage of a kind bounce after Ben Reynolds was deceived by a kick from Gareth O'Brien, who then supported a long-range break by Michael Monaghan to score the second.
Right centre Chris Bridge crashed through some poor defence to score a third Warrington try on 22 minutes and kicked his third conversion before hobbling off with a leg injury.
At 18-0, the visitors were in danger of being blown away but they stuck valiantly to their task and pulled a try back on 26 minutes when left winger James Clare took Jamie Ellis' long pass and produced a superb one-handed finish at the corner.
Clare is likely to make way for the return of Australian winger Justin Carney for the cup final but is doing his best to present Powell with a selection dilemma.
The Tigers almost scored again before half-time when second rower Frankie Mariano was put through a gap on halfway by Nathan Massey and held off the cover on a blazing sprint to the line, only to be held on his back in Rhys Evans' last-ditch tackle.
However, there was no stopping Oliver Holmes six minutes into the second half when he took Ellis' short pass to barge his way over despite the efforts of four defenders.
Liam Finn's conversion cut the deficit to eight points but Warrington made the game safe with two further tries in a five-minute spell.
Evans took Simon Grix's cut-out pass to cross at the corner for the first of his two tries and prop Anthony England charged onto Mick Higham's short pass to crash over by the posts.
Stefan Ratchford added both conversions in the absence of Bridge to make it 30-10 and then used an overlap to cross for his side's sixth try on 65 minutes.
As the visitors tired, Monaghan and Evans both went over in the last seven minutes as Warrington emphasised their superiority and Ratchford took his goal tally to five from as many attempts.
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First Utility Super League Table
|5||Hull K R||0||0|
|7||Salford Red Devils||0||0|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th February|
|20:00||Widnes vs Wigan|
|Friday 6th February|
|20:00||St Helens vs Catalans Dragons|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Warrington vs Salford|
|Sunday 8th February|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Hull|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Leeds|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 12th February|
|20:00||Salford vs St Helens|
|Friday 13th February|
|20:00||Hull vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Widnes|
|20:00||Wigan vs Huddersfield|
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