Ahead of the sides’ play-off ties on Thursday and Friday nights, Ian Proctor recalls classic Salford Red Devils vs Castleford Tigers and St Helens vs Wigan Warriors games.
February 4, 2012 – Salford 10-24 Castleford
Castleford were the visitors for Salford’s opening game at the AJ Bell Stadium on a freezing, snowy February evening seven years ago.
The Tigers were playing their first game under coach Ian Millward too and they duly spoiled the home party by completing a 24-10 Round One win in appalling conditions.
Reigning Man of Steel Rangi Chase began the season in fine form, having a hand in three of four tries for the visitors – and full-back Richard Owen crossed for two of them.
Home half-back Matty Smith had scored the opening try at the new ground, but Owen’s first touchdown came just before half-time and gave the Tigers their 6-4 interval lead.
Josh Griffin and Adam Milner followed with further scores to put Castleford in the ascendancy before impressive back-rower Matty Ashurst marked his Salford debut with a try which gave them hope of a comeback.
But Owen’s second try settled the outcome two minutes from time as Castleford made it four consecutive away wins at Salford.
April 27, 2013 – Salford 34-30 Castleford
After losing their opening meeting with Castleford at AJ Bell Stadium in 2012, Salford managed to put together a sequence of four home wins in their next five meetings with the Tigers.
The first of them came in a thrill-a-minute contest which produced a dozen different try-scorers and an impressive 34-30 win for the Red Devils in a meeting between the teams sat in the bottom two positions in the table.
Both clubs had recently undergone a coaching change, Brian Noble having been installed at Salford whereas Castleford were under the caretaker command of Danny Orr after parting company with Millward.
Noble’s first victory in charge of Salford came in a game which saw the lead change hands five times, and the contest was eventually won when ex-Tigers favourite Ryan McGoldrick intercepted Rangi Chase’s pass and raced away for the twelfth and final try of the game.
With each side scoring six tries, the deadly accurate goal-kicking of Marc Sneyd – landing five from six – proved the difference on a night when both Jamie Ellis and Kirk Dixon were off form for the Tigers.
Salford Red Devils vs Castleford Tigers
September 26, 2019, 7:00pm
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August 11, 2017 – Salford 4-23 Castleford
Castleford were sweeping aside all opposition on the way to the first League Leaders trophy in their long history.
And they moved 10 points clear of the field with this emphatic victory, effectively clinching the silverware and leaving their fans singing in the rain at the AJ Bell Stadium.
They travelled to Salford in Round Two of the Super Eights series looking to avenge the first of only three weekly-round defeats incurred throughout their most consistent season. They had suffered their first home defeat of the season against St Helens the previous week.
Castleford were in control from start to finish against a Salford side that had beaten them 13-12, in a thriller at the same venue, five months earlier.
Man of the match Zak Hardaker crossed for the opening try after only seven minutes and the full-back added a second, 20 minutes later to give Castleford their 12-0 half-time advantage.
There was a brief hint of a Salford fightback when Kiwi wing legend Manu Vatuvei marked his home debut with a fine 43rd minute try for the Red Devils.
But the Tigers settled the outcome with two tries in a five-minute spell, from Paul McShane and Jy Hitchcox, before Luke Gale’s 75th-minute drop goal sealed a 23-4 win.
October 6, 2001 – Wigan 44-10 St Helens
After being humiliated 16-54 at home to Saints in the 2000 play-offs, followed by losing again in the Grand Final, Wigan claimed their first Super League play-off win over St Helens in impressive style to book an Old Trafford showdown with Bradford Bulls.
Almost 20,000 fans packed the DW Stadium to see Wigan deny Saints the possibility of a third-consecutive title triumph, in the process halting the dominance of Ian Millward’s team which, at the time, held the Challenge Cup, Super League title and World Club Challenge trophy.
With influential half-backs Matthew Johns and Adrian Lam to the fore, Terry Newton tireless at hooker and Andy Farrell setting the perfect captain’s lead, Wigan won the early arm-wrestle and turned the 6-6 stalemate into a 20-6 half-time lead.
Lam scored their opening try after great work from Farrell; Johns sent Radlinski over for his 30th try of an outstanding season, and Newton went over from close-range. Saints’ only response was a try from ex-Wigan favourite Kevin Iro.
St Helens vs Wigan Warriors
September 27, 2019, 7:00pm
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When Papua New Guinea international Lam scored his second try, after just six minutes of the second-half, the outcome was settled and Wigan added gloss to their 44-10 win with two late tries from Brian Carney – firstly a 30-metre effort from Steve Renouf’s pass and then reacting first to Farrell’s kick to the corner.
Farrell kicked eight goals for the home side to break Frano Botica’s club record points-in-a-season record (with 429), only for Pat Richards to surpass his aggregate by amassing 462 points in 2010.
October 11, 2002 – St Helens 24-8 Wigan
Saints were looking to qualify for their third Grand Final in four seasons and Wigan were seeking their third-consecutive Old Trafford appearance when the teams took the field in front of a capacity 15,100 crowd at Knowsley Road.
After topping the league table, Saints had been denied the direct route to the Theatre of Dreams by Bradford, in front of another capacity home crowd the previous week. Wigan were on a roll, having eliminated Castleford and Leeds Rhinos with something to spare in two home play-off ties.
It was cold and pouring rain which greeted the players, but Sean Long immediately took control and within two minutes the half-back was sending out a cut-out pass to get winger Anthony Stewart over in the corner.
After Lam’s kick went out on the full, Saints took full advantage and David Furner was forced to make a crucial tackle to deny Sculthorpe before Long’s dummy-half work sent Chris Joynt charging over in the 14th minute.
Wigan clawed their way back with a Farrell penalty goal and a typically determined try from Mick Cassidy to reduce it to 12-8. But Saints led by 10 points at the interval following Keiron Cunningham’s powerhouse try.
The Warriors bossed the third quarter without scoring and when the imperious Long produced a 40/20 kick it set up the position for the genial half-back to kick over the defence for Paul Sculthorpe to score a try confirmed by the video referee.
October 1, 2011 – St Helens 26-18 Wigan
Saints were without a home venue when they last played hosts to Wigan in Super League play-off football.
2011 was a year in which they were forced to ground share Halton Stadium with neighbours Widnes, after leaving Knowsley Road to the bulldozers and with Langtree Park still under construction.
After defeating Wigan 26-18 at DW Stadium, a fortnight earlier, Saints won by an identical scoreline to book their sixth-consecutive Old Trafford visit and their fourth meeting in five seasons with Leeds.
Looking to retain the crown won at Saints’ expense the previous year, Wigan had the better of the opening quarter and led 6-0 through Pat Richards’ penalty goal which was followed by a Josh Charnley try from Thomas Leuluai’s kick.
Lee Gaskell hit back with a try for Saints and Jamie Foster kicked two goals, but Wigan had regained the lead (12-8) by half-time following the first try of the season from prop Eamon O’Carroll.