Just when you thought that things couldn´t get any worse for winless second bottom side Castleford Tigers; they announce that they have lost mercurial utility-back Jake Mamo to a career ending back injury; and then they have to face a Leeds Rhinos side who arrived at the Jungle for the derby game on the back of two wins as they look to continue their good form after a disappointing start to their season.
A win for the Rhinos would lift them to third in the table ahead of the rest of the weekend games and a win by twenty-three or more points would push the Tigers into bottom spot on points difference. The Tigers needed a ninety-six point victory to raise them up by a single place in the table.
The Rhinos were favourites with the bookies but only just, the home side having been given an eight-point start on the handicap coupon.
It was a terrific opening sixteen minutes from both sides, defences on top but no lack of ambition from either side in attack.
A Blake Austin 40-20 on eight minutes should have resulted in the opening Leeds try but a Rhyse Martin offload on the line was knocked on, and then on the next play that the Rhinos were penalised for offside.
On sixteen a high tackle from Derrell Olpherts on a quicksilver Jason Qareqare on the Rhinos twenty enabled the Tigers to profit as they moved the ball through fast hands from left to right and into the midriff of Bureta Faraimo to dive over in the corner on the overlap. Gareth Widdop was unable to convert from the touchline, the home side with a 4-0 lead.
On twenty-four Faraimo had a nailed on second but he spilled the ball five from the line when all he had to do was take the pass and ground.
The Rhinos took full advantage as they took the ball the length of the field with Cam Smith putting in the final pass to a supporting Richie Myler to scamper over under the sticks and give Rhyse Martin a simple conversion to edge the Rhinos into a two point lead.
A late tackle from James Bentley on the half hour allowed Widdop to kick the penalty goal to bring his side level again.
On thirty-five the Rhinos opted to run a perfectly kickable penalty but managed to force a goal line drop-out on the last tackle. The kick didn´t go the full ten and this time the Rhinos opted to kick for goal, Martin edging the Rhinos back into a two-point lead at the interval.
Castleford had much of the early pressure in the second half. A forty-eighth minute Martin ball steal gave Widdop a kickable penalty but he slid the ball wide of the uprights.
Castleford were back in the lead on fifty-six, Faraimo summersaulting over the line in the right corner with a move from the back of the scrum. Widdop was on target from the touchline for 12-8 to the Tigers.
A Tigers penalty on seventy minutes saw Widdop have another crack at the posts from forty metres out. The stand-off was on target this time for a 14-8 lead with ten minutes remaining for a classic Rhinos fightback.
But it never came as the Tigers defence held firm and denied the Rhinos a clear try scoring opportunity as the clock ran down to the final hooter.
Massive relief around the Jungle as the Tigers got their first points of the season and sheer delight that it was by taking the spoils from the old enemy from just up the road. Castleford worked hard in defence and ground out a win against a Rhinos side who were never allowed to hit their stride or gain any momentum. McShane and Widdop were the key architects of Tigers success.
Still lots of work for both coaches to shape a side to make the play-offs, but a move in the right direction for the home side and a bad and uninspiring night in the office for Leeds.
Castleford Tigers: Eden, Faraimo (2T), Broadbent, Fonua, Qareqare, Widdop (3G), Miller, Mustapha, McShane, Massey, Milner, Mellor, Westerman. Subs: Edwards, Smith, Matagi, Watts. 18th Man: Vete.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler (T), Fusitu´a, Macdonald, Handley, Olpherts, Austin, Sezer, Holroyd, O´Connor, Tetevano, McDonnell, Martin (2G), Smith. Subs: Bentley, Lisone, Sangare, Roberts. 18th Man: Johnson.
Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 4-6, 6-6, 6-8 : HT : 10-8, 12-8, 14-8 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Castleford – Square – Leeds – Square – Leeds – Castleford.
Referee: Aaron Moore.