After thrashing the Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup earlier in the season, the Castleford Tigers came into Easter Mondays Round Nine West Yorkshire derby match with high expectations of a repeat performance to lift themselves closer to safety and pile the misery on Rhinos interim coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
The home side had James Clare in for a rested Greg Eden, and young speedster Jason Qareqare on the bench while in the absence of many first choices a youthful Rhinos gave debuts to Max Simpson and most exciting for the Leeds faithful, Jack Sinfield, as both looked to start what they hope will be long Leeds careers.
The bookies gave the Rhinos an eight-point start on the handicap coupon but a win for the Tigers could lift them as high as sixth, the Rhinos unable to improve their league position with a win but it would edge them closer to safety from relegation.
It had been a fast start to the game with the Rhinos edging field position, but the Tigers had the first breakthrough on seven minutes when they kept the ball alive as the Rhinos tacklers held off with James Clare going through a gap off a Kenny Edwards pass to dive in. Gareth O´Brien was wide with his conversion attempt.
Following the try the pressure was all Tigers as the Rhinos scrambled to keep them out in defence and after a superb try saving tackle from Ash Handley the next play saw a pinpoint Paul McShane kick to the corner collected by Derrell Olpherts and grounded in one action. Once again O´Brien was off target but with twenty on the clock the home side had an 8-0 lead.
The Tigers had a try disallowed on twenty-five for a knock-on to save the Rhinos blushes after some dreadful defending gifted the opportunity.
Brad Dwyer was stopped just short of the line with two minutes left on the first half clock as the Rhinos came their closest to a first half score but on the next set Jake Mamo failed to clear a Jack Sinfield grubber and Rhyse Martin was the man on the spot to ground the loose ball for a Rhinos try. Martin added the conversion and after being a distant second best for most of the half the Rhinos trailed by just two at the interval.
The Tigers looked the more nervous of the two sides in the opening exchanges in the second half and there were errors aplenty from both outfits. Oledzki was held up over the line on fifty-five after another Tigers error and after a Massey high tackle under his own sticks, Martin kicked the penalty goal to level the scores at 8-8.
The tables turned against the Rhinos on sixty-two after three dubious James Bentley tackles finally gifted the Tigers a penalty under the sticks and the Rhinos second rower saw yellow while O´Brien kicked the penalty to re-establish a two-point lead for the home side.
Olpherts had a try ruled out by the referee on sixty-six for a knock-on by Mamo in the build-up.
The Tigers won the game on seventy-one, with the Rhinos still down to twelve men, with Liam Watts taking a Jake Trueman offload to run twenty metres and ground under the sticks. O´Brien added the conversion for an eight-point lead.
With the clock showing seventy-seven the Rhinos went in in the left corner with Martin taking an inside pass from Handley and taking the quick conversion himself, the Rhinos were now just two points adrift with two and a half minutes remaining on the clock.
This was far closer than it should have been thanks to Tigers indiscipline and clumsiness which kept the Rhinos in the hunt until yet another Bentley brain explosion which saw the Rhinos second rower in the sin-bin for ten minutes, a ten minutes during which Castleford scored eight points. The Tigers continues their push for the lower play-off places, the Rhinos will be thanking Hull KR for beating Toulouse at the death and preventing them from dropping to rock bottom.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Olpherts (T), Fonua, Mamo, Clare (T), Trueman, O´Brien (2G), Griffin, McShane, Watts (T), Milner, Edwards, Westerman. Subs: Smith, Qareqare, Massey, Hepi.
Leeds Rhinos: Sutcliffe, Briscoe, Simpson, Mellor, Handley, Sinfield, Austin, Oledzki, Leeming, Thompson, Bentley (SB on 62), Martin (2T, 3G), O´Connor. Subs: Dwyer, Tetevano, Gannon, Donaldson.
Score Progression: 4-0, 8-0, 8-4, 8-6 : HT : 8-8, (SB), 10-8, 14-8, 16-8, 16-12, 16-14 : FT.
Referee: Liam Moore.