IF BEING able to win after playing poorly is the sign of a good team, Castleford Tigers are the real deal on this evidence.
Ninety nine times out of 100 a performance as bad as the one they produced against Salford Red Devils would have ended with Tigers being heckled from the field.
Instead, thanks to a couple of big plays in the final moments, Cas’ fans were dancing in the stands as they celebrated a first victory in three games.
The most dramatic of finishes was much more than a dire game deserved and Cas were fortunate to claim the spoils.
They were poor in every area other than defence and from 8-0 ahead with 15 left, found themselves 10-8 adrift inside the last minute.
Salford were forced to drop out, Rangi Chase kicked deep, but Tigers returned the ball, Daryl Clark forced his way close to the line and a clever offload found Jake Webster, who used the greasy conditions to slide over.
The hooter went before Marc Sneyd completed a 14-10 win with his conversion.
Salford didn’t look to have a chance when Sneyd kicked Cas into their eight-point lead on the hour, following Junior Sau’s high shot on Michael Shenton, who was making his 200th Tigers appearance.
But a knock-on by Carney five minutes later, followed by a penalty, enabled Sau to barge over the top of the winger to get Salford back in the game.
And with 10 minutes left Gareth Hock returned to the field after a long injury break and crashed over the line with his first touch, Chase’s goal edging Salford ahead.
Cas offered nothing in the second period, until the very final moments and the visitors would have won but for Luke Dorn’s intervention to knock the ball down when Francis Meli made a break and passed the ball inside towards the supporting Niall Evalds.
Dorn, Carney and Clark all battled to lift Cas late on, but there weren’t many notable contributions otherwise in a game in which both sides struggled to complete a set.
Carney was involved in two of the match’s best moments.
After 29 minutes of complete dross he came up with a moment of class which would have illuminated a much better game.
Cas managed to get to the last tackle, notable in itself, then Liam Finn kicked to the left and Carney rose above defender Greg Johnson, made a brilliant catch and managed to stretch over the line.
Sneyd, who is on loan from the Red Devils, converted from wide out and a few minutes later Carney smashed Sau with a ferocious tackle, followed by a – genuine it appeared – pat on the head to check the Salford man was okay, or possibly still alive.
The other moment of note before the break came when ex-Castleford Man of Steel Chase played the ball to his former – and future – team-mate Weller Hauraki, who will move to Salford next season.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn, Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Carney, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Wheeldon, Subs (all used) Milner, Mariano, Jewitt, Carvell.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds, J Griffin, Meli, Sau, Johnson, Chase, Fages, Morley, Lee, Tasi, Ashurst, Hock, Puletua. Subs (all used) J Walne, Rapira, Tomkins, Walton.
Referee: Tim Roby (Preston).