Castleford Tigers maintained their unbeaten record at Magic Weekends played at Newcastle’s St James’ Park as they deservedly beat Leeds Rhinos 29-18.
Greg Eden’s second half hat-trick proved the difference between the teams as the Tigers completed their second victory over the Rhinos this season to go two points clear at the top of the Betfred Super League.
After completing a 20-minute hat-trick last week against St Helens, Eden’s treble came even quicker this time as he benefited from great left edge set up play to score three tries in 17 minutes and take the game completely away from Leeds.
It was looking tight as Leeds were helped by one or two decisions from referee Phil Bentham and video referee Ben Thaler and went in level at half-time, but they had no answer when Daryl Powell’s men stepped up a level after the break.
Castleford could feel aggrieved that it was level at half-time.
They started like a house on fire as Zak Hardaker took a Luke Gale high kick in the first minute only to be tackled just short of the line.
A similar move saw the opening try in the third minute when Gale’s high kick was knocked back by Michael Shenton to the following up Gale who collected to score. He added the goal to make it 6-0.
The next attack saw Shenton make a great break only to spoil it with a poor pass inside to the unmarked Gale.
Andy Lynch’s charge near the Rhinos line was then halted by an illegal ball steal that was not spotted by the officials and Leeds took advantage to get down field and go lose themselves.
Brad Singleton was held up over the line before Kallum Watkins took Danny McGuire’s pass to charge through a gap for Leeds’ opening score on 13 minutes.
Stevie Ward and Anthony Mullally became further Leeds players to be held up over the line as the Tigers defence held firm and the Rhinos enjoyed a good spell.
One Cas attack was controversially ended when Hardaker appeared to be tackled in the air and again no penalty came their way.
They did finally get a penalty when Greg Eden was obstructed off the ball trying to get to a high kick, but from the next set Shenton dropped the ball under pressure near the line.
The biggest talking point of the half came on 35 minutes when Eden raced 80 metres downfield for what looked an exciting try straight from a scrum, 10 metres from the Tigers line. But his effort was controversially chalked off by video referee Ben Thaler for obstruction as the ball was moved to the Castleford winger.
To add insult to injury the resulting penalty was kicked by Liam Sutcliffe to make it 6-6 at the break.
Gale tried a drop-goal in the last minute, but it was a poor effort to leave the teams tied up as they walked in.
Straight from the start of the second half it was obvious that Cas were moving up a level and their intensity was higher. Within two minutes Shenton forced his way over the line only to be held up and denied a try by video referee Thaler because of a lack of evidence to say he got the ball down despite the player’s celebration.
Junior Moors was then held up over the line, an easier decision this time.
There was no stopping Eden on 46 minutes, though, as a smart left edge move gave him the chance to race over. The touchline kick by Gale went in off the post and it was 12-6.
That was soon increased to 18-6 as Eden dived over following a fantastic flicked pass by Shenton and Gale goaled well again.
The video referee ruled no try again for the Tigers four minutes later, correctly, after Paul McShane had lost the ball near the line and Grant Millington touched down.
But the travelling contingent did not have long to celebrate once more when Tom Holmes caught McGuire’s kick near his own line and raced fully 90 metres downfield for a spectacular try.
Cas were not done as Eden completed his hat-trick following another superbly timed pass by his skipper, Shenton and Gale added another touchline goal to make it 28-6.
Leeds saved face a little with tries by Joel Moon and Liam Sutcliffe, either side of a Gale drop-goal, but the game was already effectively over just past the hour mark.
This was not the thrashing the Tigers handed out to their rivals at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle earlier in the year, with Leeds stronger defensively, but they were again much the better and more fluent side and were unlucky not to run in another 40-point haul.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Eden 3, Gale, Holmes; goals Gale 4, drop-goal Gale. Leeds: Tries Watkins, Moon, Sutcliffe; goals Sutcliffe 3.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden, T Holmes, Gale; Lynch, McShane, Millington, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Milner. Subs: Massey, Moors, Cook, Foster.
Leeds Rhinos: Golding; Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall; McGuire, Moon; Singleton, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Ferres, Ward, Jones-Buchanan. Subs: Burrow, Handley, Delaney, Mullally. Subs: Burrow, Handley, Delaney, Mullally.
Referee: Phil Bentham.
Attendance: 65,407 (weekend)