On the way into Castleford, the sign welcoming you informs you that it is the birthplace of sculptor Henry Moore. On the way out, there was big neon light informing us that is also the resting place of Warrington’s hopes for the 2015 season.
The town was also home of Viv Nicholson, the woman who famously won £152,319 – the equivalent of £3million in today’s money – on the football Pools in the sixties and spunked all the money within a couple of years, after which her life spiralled out of control.
Such was her publicised fall from grace, The Smiths featured on her on the cover of their single Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.
And fuck me, wouldn’t that be an apt song for our season?
After a couple of miserable visits to Headingley, we returned to West Yorkshire for the fourth time in as many weeks to see our hopes of making that fourth spot virtually vanish.
There would be no repeat of our visit to Wheldon Road last month, when we ripped Cas apart, as Daryl Powell’s men looked a lot more up for this one.
The two match ban handed to Westwood for his high tackle on Luke Gale – or, rather, Daryl Powell’s rant about it after the game – added a bit of spice to proceedings and Super Ben copped a lot of stick on his return from suspension. His every involvement was predictably jeered by the home fans, while he was targeted by the Cas pack when he took the ball in. Even Luke Gale attempted to get some revenge when – fourth man into the tackle – he laid into Westwood’s head with forearm.
The match itself pretty much summed up our season. After a rather abject first half, we seemed to be well and truly out of the game as the clock ticked down, but a late flurry prompted hopes of a comeback, only for the width of the post to deny us in the end.
16-6 down going into the last 10 minutes, Richie Myler’s break away try turned the momentum of the game and suddenly Wire looked very lively. Chris Sandow hit the post with the conversion attempt, but landed his next attempt from the touchline – after Penny squeezed in by the corner flag – to level the scores.
That miss would prove costly minutes later when Liam Finn, who had done fuck all, all game, nudged over the drop goal that crushed our top four hopes.
We couldn’t speak.
We had actually dominated early proceedings, enjoying most of the possession and a good spell in Cas’ half, but typically we couldn’t convert the pressure into points and, after what felt like an eternity attacking the Tigers’ try line, we put in a poor kick on the last tackle and, from the 20 metre restart, allowed them to make easy yards downfield. From the resulting position, Cas opened the scoring through Roy Chubby Brown on the left wing after our defence was sucked in for a change.
Their next try was a similar story. We thought we had scored when a kick to the corner was contested and knock down towards Penny who collected the loose ball and touched down, but the video referee ruled that Atkins had knocked the ball forward.
Cas, rather predictably, romped down our end and extended their lead through Shenton, who danced through our trademark soft edge defence.
Incredibly, George King – of all people – went for a short kick off and got the ball back from the restart, giving Wire some much needed field position and we appeared to have capitalised when the ball was spread through the backline and found Evans in enough space to score in the corner, but it was chalked off for a forward pass from Ratchford.
We finally crossed for a legitimate try before the break when Richie Myler charged onto Sims’ short ball to crash over under the sticks, before Luke Gale knocked over a penalty just before half-time to send the hosts into the break with a 12-6 lead.
When Finn’s kick to the corner was knocked back and fed to Carney to get his second after just three minutes of the second half, the game looked pretty much dead and buried before that late comeback attempt.
Wire spent a lot of time in possession, but the same old problems surfaced too much. Chris Sandow looked keen to impress and make his mark on the game: He was involved in everything, but it just didn’t click for him. All too often, his runners weren’t hitting the right line, or at the right time, and his lack of time with the squad was apparent.
At least by the time next season comes around, he will be embedded within the club and can boss the team around the park, but at the minute it looks like he is still learning everybody’s name, let alone the gameplan.
We had our chances, though, and strong try line defence from Castleford denied us a few times, but we cannot wait until the last ten minutes of matches to spring into life and find some urgency. We looked more dangerous when we play off the cuff, and made more metres when we run from dummy half rather than hitting it up in the forwards, as we have all year, but by the time we started to do it, we had given ourselves too much to do to get back into the game.
Games against Wigan are never meaningless, in and of themselves but, barring a minor miracle, it is merely pride at stake next week against the crust munching yokels.