Widnes thugs have been told they have no place to hide after invading the pitch after their side’s cup exit.
Around 80 Widnes followers – including one with his young son – jumped over barriers to confront Castleford supporters who were celebrating their team’s return to Wembley for the Challenge Cup Final for the first time in 22 years with the players at the opposite end of the ground.
A female Tigers fan needed medical treatment for an ankle injury and the club’s mascots – JT and Tigerman – were punched as Vikings supporters tried to goad opposition followers.
The head of one of the mascot characters’ costumes ended up being kicked around the pitch.
Several Castleford players were almost caught up in the trouble as stewards and then police tried to restore order. A handful of Widnes fans were ejected as the mood turned ugly.
Rugby League chief Nigel Wood condemned the pitch invasion and said the governing body will study reports from police, the clubs and host venue before “deciding what action to take.”
Wood added: “The sport has every right to be disappointed with the behaviour of a minority of Widnes fans. We will work with the clubs to identify any supporters who encroached onto the pitch. There is no place for such behaviour in Rugby League.”
The violence took the gloss off an outstanding display by Super League’s surprise team of the season.
Tries from Liam Finn, Daryl Clark, Kirk Dixon, Jamie Ellis and Jake Webster plus four Marc Sneyd goals sent ‘Cas’ through to face Leeds at Wembley on August 23.
Jack Owens spared the embarrassment of a whitewash with a late try and conversion but the day belonged to Castleford, 80 minutes away from a first Challenge Cup win since beating Hull KR in 1986.
Daryl Powell praised the Castleford fans for avoiding a potential powder keg situation.
“It could have been more serious,” said Powell, an ex Leeds player and coach. “But the fans were impeccable as they have been all year with the way they go about their business.
“We were really professional and composed on the field. And I thought they stayed the same which is really pleasing.
“But it could have escalated and been a bad day for rugby league.”
Powell added: “It was ridiculous. I don’t know what they were trying to prove. But the boys are alright and there were no real incidents.”
On a lighter note Powell quipped: “We have had the Tour de France but an all Yorkshire Challenge Cup final tops that probably.
“Leeds are a good side and they will take some beating. But we were excellent against them the other week and we will feel confident whoever we are playing against at the moment. We have players who can do special things.”
However, prop Craig Huby is set to miss the final after dislocating his elbow in the first half.
He returned to the ground after hospital treatment but faces a race against time to be fit.
Widnes, denied a first Wembley final since 1993, were woeful. Jack Owens spared the embarrassment of a whitewash with a late try and conversion.
Coach Denis Betts did his best Arsene Wenger impersonation when asked about the trouble.
“I was inside. I didn’t see any of it,” he claimed. “Any kind of stuff like that it is not nice, but I can’t comment if I didn’t see it.”
Widnes chief executive James Rule also refused to comment.
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