Salford’s 2016 drop-goal hero Gareth O’Brien broke his former side’s hearts with a golden-point winner to end the Red Devils’ run in the 2021 Challenge Cup.
Richard Marshall’s team took the tie to extra-time with a barnstorming try from skipper Lee Mossop with just 12 seconds remaining, but when Paul McShane charged down Kevin Brown’s drop-goal attempt and collected the ball, the scene was set for O’Brien to step up for another famous one-pointer.
It was the second time the two sides had met in the space of eight days and although the Red Devils ended up on the wrong side of the result on both occasions, this was a much-improved performance.
The conditions meant handling errors occurred throughout, but Salford’s discipline showed the improvement demanded by Marshall and there were several bright sparks - the return of Dan Sarginson, Elijah Taylor and Ryan Lannon from injury, plus a continuation of Harvey Livett’s excellent form as he contributed 14 points.
“All in all, we were good value,” said the Red Devils coach. “We could have won the game and should have won the game.
“There were moments in the game where we showed lots of character and toughness. We defended seven sets in a row and went up the other end and scored. The Salford never-say-die attitude was there in bucketloads today.
“Paul McShane was the difference between the two sides last week and if I'm being honest, he was the difference between the two sides again today.”
The Red Devils soaked up some serious pressure in the opening stages, Castleford dominating field position and possession but proving unable to overcome some determined defence. And it was Salford that opened the scoring when Niall Evalds and Derrell Olpherts failed to deal with a high bomb from Brown, allowing Livett to touch down his first try of the afternoon.
Cas hit back through Daniel Smith mid-way through the first half, but Livett went over again - capping off an excellent set play from a tap penalty - just after the half-hour mark. But a penalty cost the Red Devils again, setting the Tigers up to score in the final seconds of the first half, much to the annoyance of Marshall, who has previously bemoaned his side’s tendency to concede on the stroke of half-time.
Michael Shenton’s try just before the hour mark looked like it would prove the difference between the two sides, but when Cas had two men sent to the sin bin - O’Brien and Liam Watts - Salford got on top, though O’Brien had returned by the time Mossop charged over just before the final hooter sounded and Livett’s boot sent the game to golden point.
The Red Devils received the kick off and produced a strong set to give Brown a shot at a drop-goal, but McShane’s heroics forced the position for the ever-reliable O’Brien to swing his boot and send the Tigers into the semi-final at Salford’s expense.