BATTLING Castleford's spirited fightback was in vain in a 36-14 defeat against Super League champions Leeds Rhinos at Probiz Coliseum on Friday night.
The Tigers were 18-0 down after 29 minutes but hit back to cut the deficit to four points before they ran out of steam in the closing stages.
The Rhinos, who had the benefit of several key decisions, were flattered by their winning margin after scoring 12 poiints in the last four minutes.
Castleford's caretaker coach Stuart Donlan, still standing in for the absent Ian Millward, was proud of the spirit shown by his side five days after a 46-4 mauling against Wigan.
There was a promising debut by Australian prop Grant Millington while winger Josh Griffin maintained his record of scoring in every game for his new club.
Two tries in three minutes from Daryl Clark (pictured) and Kirk Dixon shorfly before half-time put the Tigers back in the game.
When Griffin grabbed a 90-yard interception try four minutes in the second-half, the Tigers were only 18-14 behind and looked capable of bagging their first home win of the season.
But the Rhinos struck a crucial blow in the 63rd minute with winger Ryan Hall's third try and they sealed victory with late touchdowns from Danny McGuire and debutant Liam Hood.
Kevin Sinfield converted all six Leeds tries which also included an 80-yard effort from Kallum Watkins.