Salford went to The Jungle and sadly got lost in the magic of the Challenge Cup. Since their last appearance in the final, in 1969, Salford have played Castlefield nine times and sadly not won one. You can say in all honesty they are our bogey team.
Hero of the Tigers' unexpected success was hooker Paul McShane, who produced a masterful display as a makeshift scrum-half in which he scored a try and kicked four goals from six attempts. McShane was switched to seven after acting captain Luke Gale succumbed to a hamstring injury, while new signing Danny Tickle was pressed into service nine months since his last match after Luke Dorn pulled out in the warm-up.
In the event, McShane struck up an extremely effective partnership with his front-row partner Grant Millington, who demonstrated his ball distribution qualities and his immense value to the Tigers for a second successive week.
Salford handed a long-awaited debut to former Brisbane Broncos winger Daniel Vidot after a six-month injury absence, although most eyes were on former Castleford winger Justin Carney on the other flank. It was his quick play-the-ball that created the chance for centre Junior Sa'u to sprint 40 metres for the first of his two tries to open the scoring on eight minutes.
Sa'u, who scored hat-tricks in each of his two previous matches, demonstrated his poaching ability again on 27 minutes to grab Salford's second try, and Gareth O'Brien kicked his second goal.
However, the Red Devils could never feel comfortable against a side intent on living up to their `classy Cas' billing of old. Millington and McShane were happy to spread the ball wide, and in wingers Joel Monaghan and Denny Solomona Castleford had players with the athleticism to turn half-chances into tries.
Monaghan gathered Ryan Hampshire's high kick to get second rower Mike McMeeken over for the first of his two tries, via a deflection off a defender, and Solomona did likewise from McShane's kick for centre Jake Webster to touch down.
McShane converted both tries to draw his side level and the Tigers went in front for the first time four minutes before the break when centre Ben Crooks freed Monaghan and McMeeken was in support to claim his second try.
McShane again demonstrated dead-eyed accuracy with the conversion to make it 18-12, and Castleford extended their lead a minute into the second half when the makeshift scrum-half dribbled a loose ball to the line before re-gathering to get Solomona over.
Salford stand-off Robert Lui displayed his disgust at the awarding of the try by video referee Richard Silverwood in the belief that Solomona failed to ground the ball, and he got his side back into the contest six minutes later by forcing his way over from close range for his side's third try.
O'Brien's third goal cut the lead to just four points but McShane dummied his way over for Castleford's fifth try on 52 minutes and landed another impressive conversion to keep his side in control.
Salford's cause was not helped when O'Brien and Sa'u both went off after clashing heads but they battled strongly to the end. Phil Joseph and George Griffin were both held up over the line and Lui carved out a chance for Carney which went begging.
Solomona and hooker Adam Milner both had tries disallowed for the Tigers, before Solomona rounded off the scoring with a 90-metre interception try - his 16th of the season - five minutes from the end. Final score: Castleford 32 Salford Reds 18.
I spoke with a few Salford fans after the game and the disappointment was there for all to see. Lisa Rowbottom, from Salford, said "Sadly they were just not at the races today". I don't know whether this was aimed at a pun for Salford's racehorse owner Marwan. Leo said "I am gutted, I really thought this was our year". Ray Trott, from Eccles, said "Today the game felt flat; for 32 minutes I thought we had it and when Salford were attacking on the Cas line why didn't we go for a drop goal?"
Well that is that for another season but what must do now is get behind them and keep the faith, as getting back the six points the RFL took off us is more important. Keep the faith we will get there one year.