Salford tore Castleford apart as the Red Devils stormed their way to a 22-0 win to set up a semi-final with either St. Helens or Wigan.
After a tight beginning to the game, underdogs Salford took control with two tries in as many minutes of play.
First, Tyrone McCarthy touched down a low kick for the opening and, after a long consultation with his TMO the officials deemed Jake Bibby to have remained in play as he touched the ball down in the left corner to give the hosts a two-score lead.
The travelling Tigers were looking for a second Grand Final appearance in three years – having lost to Leeds in 2017 – and looked certain to respond when Jordan Rankin burst through the lines to sprint clear towards the corner, only for Salford full-back Niall Evalds to produce a stunning chase and tackle to roll the Castleford man into touch just a couple of metres from the line.
That hit the away side hard and, from that moment on, they never looked like scoring. A strong defensive effort from the hosts even kept Castleford scoreless and, fittingly, it was influential Jackson Hastings scored the final try of the game to wrap up the victory in typically flamboyant style.
The try was a perfect parting gift to the AJ Bell stadium from the half-back, who played his final home outing for the Red Devils before he joins Wigan in 2020.
The first Grand Finalists of 2019 will be known when St Helens face Wigan, who finished first and second in the table after 29 games, tonight.
The loser will then have home advantage against Salford in the second semi-final.
Salford keep surprising us
No one expected, or even thought, that Salford would have a season quite like this. Their aim was probably to challenge for the play-offs, not finish third. Could they surprise us all again and make the Grand Final? Or even win the whole thing?
Castleford will be disappointed
To miss out on a place in the Grand Final without even making the semis will be a dagger to the heart of Castleford, who were fully expecting, and expected, to do better across all competitions this season. It’s back to the drawing board for them in 2020.
Hastings wants to sign off in style
Jackson Hastings may be going to Wigan next year, but he remains solely focused on helping his current side finish 2019 with a flourish. He may face his future employers in the semi finals, or even the Grand Final itself, so what better way to show Wigan why they’ve signed him than to beat them?
Could Salford do it?
St. Helens and Wigan have certainly been the two best sides in Super League this season, the league table could tell you that much, but Salford are flying right now and no side is in better current form than them. A mammoth meeting between the top two could leave both sides feeling weary for Salford’s semi final and I’d back them to take full advantage. What a story it would be!
Salford Red Devils 22
Tries: McCarthy, Bibby, Hastings
Goals: Inu (5)
Drop Goals: n/a
Castleford Tigers 0
Drop Goals: n/a
Salford Red Devils: Evalds, Sio, Welham, Bibby, Inu; Lolohea, Hastings; Mossop, Tomkins, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, McCarthy.
Interchanges: Lussick, Flanagan, Walker, Burke.
Castleford Tigers: Rankin, Clare, Minikin, Blair, Eden; Trueman, Mata’utia; Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Clarkson, Massey.
Interchanges: Milner, Cook, O’Neill, Smith.
Referee: Ben Thaler.