CASTLEFORD TIGERS survived a huge early scare to record a 43-26 home win over Catalans Dragons which took them top of Betfred Super League.
Tigers, who climbed above Leeds Rhinos and Hull on points difference, were in danger of a second successive defeat when the French side raced into a 14-0 lead after just 11 minutes.
But 22 unanswered points gave Cas a half-time lead and after another fright at the start of the second period they pulled clear to complete a comfortable win.
It was a good response by Tigers following their first loss of the season – at Salford Red Devils a week earlier – but there were some alarming gaps in their defence and they could not have made a worse start.
Ben Roberts lost possession in Tigers’ first set and the next time they held the ball the hosts were three scores behind.
Iain Thornley went over from Brayden Wiliame’s pass to open the scoring, then brilliant play by Paul Aiton at dummy-half created a try for Richie Myler.
Joel Monaghan prevented another try in the set from the restart by knocking down a pass from Myler which would have sent Vincent Duport over, but a penalty following the resulting scrum allowed Luke Walsh to kick his third goal.
The fightback began almost immediately as Zak Hardaker dummied across the line following a scrum deep in Catalans’ territory. Gale, who added the extras, almost put Greg Eden in for a second Castleford try with a looping pass moments later, but Krisnan Inu managed to force the winger into touch.
On 30 minutes Grant Millington powered over from Junior Moors’ off-load and Gale’s second conversion cut the gap to two points.
Matt Cook knocked on trying to reach over for the home side’s third try, but Castleford were in the lead before the interval. Monaghan produced a spectacular flying finish from Jake Webster’s pass on 37 minutes, Gale adding the extras.
And on the stroke of half-time Castleford won a scrum against the feed close to Catalans’ line and Eden touched down from Roberts’ clever kick to the corner, though Gale’s kick bounced away off a post.
Louis Anderson went over for Catalans a minute into the second half, Walsh converting, but Moors hit back almost immediately, scampering over from close range. Gale landed the conversion and then booted a penalty on 54 minutes to make it 30-20.
Michael Shenton made certain of the points just before the hour mark.
His pass sent Eden streaking down the left flank and though the winger was halted by Wiliame he got an off-load away to send his captain over.
Gale converted and landed a drop goal before missing with a long-range penalty attempt.
He completed Tigers’ scoring with his seventh goal after Eden ran through some tired defence for his second try.
Catalans scored a late consolation through Duport, Walsh adding the extras.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker, Monaghan, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Roberts, Gale, Lynch, McShane, Massey, Millington, McMeeken, Milner. Subs Moors, Cook, Sene-Lefao, Chase.
Catalans Dragons: Wiliame, Yaha, Inu, Duport, Thornley, Walsh, Myler, Moa, Aiton, Casty, Bousquet Garcia, Burgess. Subs Anderson, Baitieri, Da Costa, Margalet.
Referee: Jack Smith (Warrington).