Castleford Tigers’ big day out at Wembley ended in disappointment as they lost 23-10 to a pumped up Leeds Rhinos in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final.
Daryl Powell’s men found themselves up against a side on a mission to end their Wembley hoodoo and came off second best as big day experience played a big part.
Six points behind with 14 minutes to play, the Tigers stayed in the game for as long as they could as they gave a battling display, but Ryan Hall’s second try effectively put the seal on the Rhinos’ victory.
Castleford trailed 16-4 at half-time after struggling to get their game going in the opening 40 minutes.
Whether it was Wembley or what, they seemed a bit tight early on and Danny McGuire was only just held up over the line in the third minute.
But a minute later the Tigers did go behind as Cas were caught short of numbers on their left hand side and Tom Briscoe had space to go over in the corner for a try converted from the touchline by Kevin Sinfield.
Cas finally settled after they were awarded a penalty and thought they had scored when Justin Carney charged over from a quick play-the-ball by Luke Dorn. But referee Phil Bentham was quick to call a second penalty for the Tigers and brought the play back.
From the next set they did get their first points on the board, however, when Daryl Clark latched onto Marc Sneyd’s low kick to ground the ball over the line, video referee Ben Thaler confirming the score.
Sneyd surprisingly missed the kickable conversion and it was Leeds who scored next when Rob Burrow’s well judged high kick was collected by McGuire as he leapt above Dorn to catch and quickly ground the ball.
Leeds were on top and stretched their lead with England winger Hall proving too strong for Kirk Dixon close to the line on a powerful run on the wing.
That was the last score before the break, but Cas had to survive further pressure with Burrow held up over the line and Joel Moon’s kick just running over the dead ball line.
Cas needed a big start to the second half and got it as captain Michael Shenton made a great break and Oliver Holmes was in support to supply a great finish for a try converted by Finn with Sneyd having been taken off for tactical reasons.
But it was not the start of the big comeback fans hoped as Leeds forced them back with kick after kick into touch to make the Tigers start time after time from near their own line.
Cas tried their best to break out with Finn attempting a little chip over, which he collected only to send out a forward pass under pressure.
Great defence kept Rhinos out before the Leeds team finally turned the screw following a goal-line drop-out forced by McGuire.
The next set saw the ball shipped out to Hall and he produced another strong finish, getting the better of three Tigers defenders to get the ball down over the line. Sinfield’s conversion in off both posts summed up Cas’s luck on the day and at 22-10 it was hard work now.
Cas did get the ball back from the restart and forced some pressure of their own, but Leeds held out to a couple of dangerous high kicks and it was game over when McGuire landed a drop-goal four minutes time.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Clark, Holmes; goal Finn. Leeds: Tries Briscoe, McGuire, Hall 2; goals Sinfield 3; drop-goal McGuire.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn; Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Carney; Sneyd, Finn; Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Massey. Subs: Aiton, Bailey, Kirke, Sutcliffe.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker; Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Delaney, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Subs: Aiton, Bailey, Kirke, Sutcliffe.
Referee: Phil Bentham.