Castleford Tigers threatened to blow a 20-point lead, but held their nerve to get over the line to beat a resilient Catalans Dragons side 36-28 at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
The game matched the changeable weather as the Dragons held the upper hand early on, but found themselves 20-0 down as Cas ran hot for a spell. Catalans hit back to get within two points, but the hosts kept going and were rewarded with another valuable two points.
Castleford suffered a blow before the game started when winger Denny Solomona had his return to the side put on hold after pulling up in the warm-up. He was replaced by Michael Channing, who came in at centre with Ashley Gibson on the wing.
That meant the Tigers were without 10 first teamers for one reason or another with Ben Roberts, Junior Moors and Lee Jewitt all suffering knocks to add to the men already expected to miss the match.
But they did have Ryan Bailey making his debut, starting at prop, while youngsters Ash Robson, Will Maher and Tom Holmes were all in the squad to make their home debuts and the latter was on the bench for the first time in Super League.
Perhaps with their tricky build-up it was no surprise the Tigers did not come flying out of the blocks and they came under heavy pressure in the first quarter. It took them almost 20 minutes to get a first sniff of the Catalans line, but they had done well to keep the score blank at that stage.
Robson did well to deal with dangerous kicks by Ian Henderson and Scott Dureau while Luke Gale knocked a Thomas Bosc pass down and Frankie Mariano pounced on the ball to save another potential Dragons try.
In Castleford’s first attack of any note Gale was tackled just short and Robson was pushed into touch close to the line.
Michael Shenton then tried to put Robson in at the corner only for Michael Oldfield to get a hand to his pass and make a save for the visitors.
Catalans’ relief was shortlived as on 22 minutes Gale’s long pass found Gibson unmarked on the wing and he sailed in for the first try, which was goaled by Gale.
Five minutes later Gale had a hand in another try, combining with Scott Moore to send Channing over for a second score converted by Gale.
Gale added a penalty soon after and Cas made it 20-0 when Gale’s lovely little inside pass gave Grant Millington a chance to power over the line for a third converted try.
Catalans hit back just before half-time as Fouad Yaha had space to go over in the corner for a try goaled by Dureau.
The visitors then made a flying start to the second half when they scored within a minute, Benjamin Garcia forcing his way over from close range. Dureau’s goal made it 20-12.
Suddenly the hosts were under big pressure and Morgan Escare came within inches of another score before Garcia did get over the line after charging through a hole made by Dureau’s pass.
With just two points in it the Dragons could have scored again when Escare took advantage of a pass that looked suspiciously forward to charge clear only for his pass to the wide open Zab Taia to go to ground.
Within two minutes Cas were back in attack and Shenton collected Liam Finn’s kick to go over for a relieving try, again goaled by Gale.
It was far from over, though, as the Dragons were gifted a try as home back let a Dureau kick bounce and the ball came off Gibson straight to Taia, who had a simple job to score. With Dureau kicking his fourth goal it was back to a two-point game.
The Tigers, however, had more in the tank and Jordan Tansey ran onto Finn’s little grubber kick to dive on the ball over the line for a try goaled by Gale.
More pressure followed from Cas and they scored again as Shenton’s clever break gave them good field position and Scott Moore, who had a strong game at hooker, burrowed over from close range.
Still Catalans kept going, but when Garcia squeezed over it was too late for them as the hooter followed to end a real topsy-turvy game.
The win lifted Castleford into fifth place ahead of a tough trip to Wigan next Friday.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Gibson, Channing, Millington, Shenton, Tansey, Moore; goals Gale 6. Catalans: Tries Yaha, Garcia 3, Taia; goals Dureau 4.
Castleford Tigers: Tansey; Gibson, Channing, Shenton, Robson; Finn, Gale; Lynch, Moore, Bailey, O Holmes, Mariano, Massey. Subs: Millington, Boyle, Maher, T Holmes.
Catalans: Escare; Oldfield, Cardace, Tonga, Yaha; Bosc, Dureau; Anderson, Henderson, Casty, Taia, Whitehead, Baitieri. Subs: Pelissier, Garcia, Bousquet, Springer.
Referee: Robert Hicks.