Jake Webster’s try seven minutes from time earned Castleford Tigers a hard fought 18-14 victory over Super League champions Leeds Rhinos.
It was not pretty at times, but Daryl Powell’s men were rewarded for a gritty display as they bounced back from their hammering at Warrington last week.
Defensively they were outstanding as they prevented the Rhinos from scoring a single point in the second half and would have won by a bigger margin had they not had three scores chalked off.
Cas got off to a storming start as they led 12-0 inside 15 minutes and could have been further ahead as they had another “try” disallowed by the video referee after on field ref James Child had indicated a score.
Both sides had to defend their line well in the opening minutes after the teams ripped into each other.
It looked like the Leeds defence had been first to crack as Luke Gale’s kick was caught by Jake Webster only for the player to possible lose the ball trying to ground it, according to the ref in the stand anyway.
But on 10 minutes the Tigers did have their opening try when Andy Lynch charged over following a superb pass by Gale that sent him through a gap.
Gale goaled and four minutes later added a second conversion after there was no denying Webster this time, backing up a break by Denny Solomona following a Grant Millington offload.
Back came Leeds as Ash Handley collected Brett Ferres’ grubber kick and somehow got the ball away to Joel Moon, who crossed for a try converted by Liam Sutcliffe.
A big decision followed three minutes later when Jy Hitchcox collected his own kick and passed inside to Webster. With Gale on his inside Cas seemed set to score, but Zak Hardaker got hands to the final pass and appeared to get away with a knock-on.
From the resulting set the Rhinos charged down field through Carl Ablett and Kallum Watkins supplied a strong finish for an unconverted try.
Cas were denied by the video referee again after Mike McMeeken charged over, with Joel Monaghan knocking on challenging for a high ball from Gale’s kick.
And once again it was the Rhinos who were to take advantage of their fortune, with Tom Briscoe going over in the corner following a top quality move that may have involved a forward pass. Sutcliffe could not goal, but they now led 14-12.
Leeds finished the half strongly and were only inches away from another score when Handley and Briscoe were both held up over the line.
The second half was less exciting as errors crept into both sides’ play, but only a superbly timed tackle by Man of Steel Zak Hardaker prevented Solomona from scoring a try after he raced onto another great Gale pass.
It was the Tigers’ turn to save what looked a certain score when Jy Hitchcox brought down Liam Sutcliffe as he raced clear after intercepting a Gale pass. Moments later Briscoe was driven in touch by Hitchcox and Gale.
Paul McShane thought he had scored against his former club after he collected Webster’s offload only to be brought back for a controversial forward pass decision and it seemed that for all their pressure it was going to be one of those nights for the Tigers.
Leeds were rarely a threat in the second half, but they did look to be set to score when Watkins charged for the line only for young substitute Greg Minikin, on his Super League debut, to get back and make a stunning tackle. Hardaker was then driven in touch from the following play and that was the last seen of the visitors in attack.
Further Cas pressure finally brought its reward with the Webster try made by Gale and Gale’s goal sealed a memorable 18-14 victory described by head coach Daryl Powell as “awesome” at the way they responded to the bad defeat a week earlier.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Lynch, Webster 2; goals Gale 3. Leeds: Tries Moon, Watkins, Briscoe; goal Sutcliffe.
Castleford Tigers: Solomona; Monaghan, Crooks, Webster, Hitchcox; Hampshire, Gale; Lynch, Milner, Boyle, Millington, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: McShane, Springer, Maher, Minikin.
Leeds Hardaker; Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Handley; Sutcliffe, Burrow; Galloway, Falloon, Cuthbertson, Ablett, Ferres, Jones-Buchanan. Subs: Lilley, Mullally, Walters, Keinhorst.
Referee: James Child