The Leeds Rhinos travelled to Castleford Tigers as underdogs, a rare occurrence in recent games between these two near neighbours. With two big wins in their opening two fixtures people were already talking about the home side as title contenders, but a win tonight was crucial for local bragging rights.
Rangi Chase was the only change for Castleford as he is serving a one week club suspension for an 'off the field incident'. Amongst a long list of Rhinos players unavailable for selection Rob Burrow was ruled out earlier today with stomach bug meaning coach McDermott would bring Jordan Lilley back from his Bradford Bulls loan as cover.
Few people would have predicted what was about to unfold.
When the Rhinos knocked on in their own ten, just two minutes into the game, it took the Tigers just three plays to take advantage when Greg Eden was at the end of a passing move to cross by the left corner flag. Luke Gale failed to kick the extra two from the touchline.
On eleven minutes the Tigers doubled their score when a balloon pass from Paul McShane found Greg Minikin on the right wing to dive over. This time Gale kicked an excellent conversion from wide right for 10-0.
On fourteen the Rhinos lost the ball when attacking the Tigers line and the home side quickly turned defence into attack with a lightening fast move downfield which first earned a penalty, and then saw Minikin cross for his second within a five minutes spell. Gale hit the far upright rather than score the goal. It had been a scintillating start.
On twenty-two McShane stole the ball off Golding on the half-way line and the Tigers pushed towards the Rhinos line with Michael Shenton finding Eden for his second, diving in to score one-handed in the corner. Gale was again unable to add the extras but at 18-0 it was looking academic.
On the half hour the Tigers got their fifth unanswered try thanks to a Zak Hardaker break downfield and a nice passing move as the Rhinos defence scrambled to provide cover which saw Minikin supply Mike McMeeken to round behind the sticks and give Gale a simple conversion for 24-0.
On thirty-six a sensational Junior Moors break saw him find Gale in support who made twenty metres before putting in a chip kick to the right where Minikin collected on the first bounce to dive over and complete his hat-trick. Gale converted in off the far upright and the two points were already in the bag with 30-0 lead at the interval.
Three minutes after the restart and Zak Hardaker scored his first try against his old club when he took a Gale pass to run the angle to cut through the Leeds defence for a walk in. Gale added the extras.
On forty-seven another former Rhino got on the scoreboard when McShane spun out of two attempted tackles to drop over the line from ten metres. Gale kicked the conversion for 42-0.
On fifty-one the Rhinos finally opened their account when a chip through wasn't collected cleanly by the Tigers defence, and knocked-on. Mullally hacked the ball forwards and after it rebounded off the post pad he won the race to ground and score. Liam Sutcliffe added the conversion and the Rhinos had avoided a nilling.
On the hour mark, Michael Shenton flipped a back handed pass to Jake Webster to run unopposed to the line, and when Gale added the extra two the home side were two points shy of the fifty.
Ten minutes from time and Eden got his hat-trick off a Hardaker pass. A superb touchline conversion from Gale followed. Two minutes later and Eden turned provider as he broke downfield and found Gale in support to run the last thirty metres to score. Gale again converted from the touchline to bring up the sixty.
On seventy-five Shenton walked in for Castleford twelfth try of the night through some poor Leeds attempted tackles. Gale added another two from the boot for 66-6.
A Joel Moon try on seventy-eight was no consolation for the Rhinos and their supporters but Lilley failed to find the target with the conversion attempt.
This was a sensational Castleford performance which signalled a fifth consecutive win over the Rhinos. The Rhinos were never in the game as the scintillating Tigers attack scored try after try and Leeds just caved in defensively. Leeds will go back to the drawing board but with three wins from three the Tigers have a great platform on which to build.
Hardaker (T), Minikin (3T), Webster (T), Shenton (T), Eden (3T), McShane (T), Gale (T, 8G), Lynch, Milner, Springer, Sene-Lefeo, McMeeken (T), Massey. Subs: Millington, Moors, Cook, Maher.
Golding, Handley, Watkins, Moon (T), Hall, McGuire, Sutcliffe (G), Singleton, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Keinhorst, Delaney, Walters. Subs: Mullally (T), Baldwinson, Ormondroyd, Lilley.