Three tries in eight second half minutes after they were trailing 30-22 earned Castleford Tigers a victory in a try fest against Huddersfield Giants at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
In a remarkable game the result was in doubt right up to the hooter as the lead changed hands several times with 13 tries in total scored and wingers from each team, Jy Hitchcox and Jermaine McGillvary, crossing for hat-tricks.
For Cas it was a huge two points, however, as they were forced to take the field without 10 injured first teamers and had one of the youngest back divisions they have ever fielded in Super League.
None of the rookies and inexperienced players let them down and the way they kept their nerve at times in the second half will have delighted head coach Daryl Powell.
Cas were unlucky to find themselves behind early on after missing one chance when Ben Crooks’ pass went in touch with Greg Minikin, playing on the wing, open and having another score controversially chalked off.
Tom Holmes looked to have made a dream start on his first home start as he collected the ball on the floor and raced 70 metres over the line only to turn round to find that referee Phil Bentham had given a scrum - with the put in to the Tigers for a Giants knock-on!
Huddersfield took advantage of their early good luck to force some pressure on the home line. Danny Brough’s high kick forced a drop-out, Aaron Murphy was tackled into touch to end a dangerous move and the opening try came on 10 minutes.
More luck went with the visitors as Brough’s mis-hit grubber kick bounced kindly back to him and he moved the ball right where Leroy Cudjoe had an easy job to stroll over for the first score, goaled by Brough.
The next attack saw Cas relieved to see the final pass to Jermaine McGillvary to be correctly ruled forward to deny the Giants a second try.
But back came the hosts and they levelled on 17 minutes as Mike McMeeken collected Luke Gale’s high kick to go over for try converted by Gale.
More pressure followed with Paul McShane’s kick forcing a drop-out and they went ahead when McMeeken produced a superb offload out of the back of his hand to send Minikin over for a try goaled by Gale.
Three minutes later they could have scored again when Crooks made a break, but he held onto the ball and was tackled by Brough when the better option looked to be to pass to the unmarked Minikin on his outside.
Jy Hitchcox was rightly denied a try after a forward pass by Jake Webster and from the following set Huddersfield got their second try, moving the ball wide for McGillvary to go over in the corner. Brough’s touchline conversion levelled it up.
But right on half-time, Cas went back ahead as Gale and Webster combined and Hitchcox showed terrific pace to sprint over in the corner to make the interval score 16-12.
Huddersfield made the stronger start to the second half as they forced a drop-out. Joe Wardle dropped the ball with the line beckoning, but it did not matter as soon after McGillvary caught Brough’s high kick and was too strong to keep from getting the ball down over the line. Brough added the goal to nudge the visitors two points ahead.
Back came the Tigers and a lovely delayed pass by Tom Holmes sent McMeeken over for his second try. Gale’s goal made it 22-18.
It was ‘we score, you score’ now as the Giants went back ahead when Cudjoe charged over and Brough goaled.
When Sam Rapira then proved impossible to stop on a determined battle over the line on the hour and Brough kicked another goal it was 30-22 and the Tigers now had it all to do.
There were more twists to come, however, with Adam Milner coming up with a great ball steal near the visitors’ line after it looked like one chance had gone. From the resulting set, the ball was worked left and Gale’s long pass sent Hitchcox over for his second try with Gale adding a great touchline conversion.
Delight soon turned to disappointment as the restart was carried out to give the ball back to the Giants. They looked certain to score in the left corner, but good defence by Minikin kept out Aaron Murphy who lost the ball in the tackle.
From the next set the Tigers charged down field and Webster produced a strong finish to score a try goaled by Gale to put the home team back ahead at 34-30.
Within four minutes they had scored again when Hitchcox produced a flying finish in the corner to end another flowing move and complete his hat-trick. Although Gale could not goal, Cas had an eight-point lead.
Surely it was all over, but no, as Huddersfield got the ball back from the restart and McGillvary managed to squeeze over in the corner to complete his hat-trick.
There were several more frantic plays in a tense finish as the game went into a seventh minute of added time, but Castleford survived for a precious two points.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries McMeeken 2, Minikin, Hitchcox 3, Webster; goals Gale 5. Huddersfield: Tries Cudjoe 2, McGillvary 3, Rapira; goals Brough 5.
Castleford Tigers: Hampshire; Minikin, Crooks, Webster, Hitchcox, T Holmes, Gale; Lynch, Milner, Jewitt, McMeeken, Millington, Massey. Subs: Cook, McShane, Maher, Boyle.
Huddersfield Giants: Brierley; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy; Brough, Connor; Rapira, Hinchcliffe, Huby, Lawrence, Ta’ai, Roberts. Subs: Crabtree, Patrick, Mason, M Wood.
Referee: Phil Bentham.