A FROZEN pitch provided a very brief stay of execution for Castleford Tigers nine years ago.
Tigers were due to face Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Carnegie on Friday, March 3, 2006, but amid farcical scenes, with an estimated 2,000 fans in the ground, the game was called off because a section of the field was deemed unplayable.
Rhinos immediately rescheduled the fixture for two days later and, in perfect conditions on a sunny Sunday afternoon, Tigers were mauled 66-14. Leeds officials were adamant the pitch was playable on the Friday afternoon, but plunging temperatures forced referee Phil Bentham to make an inspection a couple of hours before the scheduled 8pm kick-off time and he decided a frozen section, in front of the South Stand, was unsafe.
After the game did eventually go ahead a shell-shocked Cas coach Terry Matterson admitted his team might have been better playing on the original date, when conditions could have been a leveller.
Less than 48 hours later the pitch was in fine condition and Tigers could not cope with Leeds’ brand of open running rugby. Angry at the original postponement, Leeds took out their frustrations by rattling up the highest score Castleford had ever conceded.
The margin of defeat equalled their previous worst, from a 64-12 hammering on the same ground two years earlier. It was tough for Cas, who were missing five key forwards, but they battled hard in the first half, hitting back to within four points after trailing 12-0 early on.
Leeds led only 18-8 on the half hour mark, but then hit the afterburners to rocket into a huge 42-8 interval lead, with four tries in the final 10 minutes of the opening period. Tigers dug deep after the break to restrict Leeds to just 24 more points, but they finished with a total of 11 touchdowns and all of those were converted by skipper Kevin Sinfield.
Eight of Tigers’ points – from a Tommy Haughey try and Craig Huby’s conversion and penalty goal – came when they were down to 12 men, with Danny Sculthorpe in the sin-bin. Ryan McGoldrick scored their other try 13 minutes into the second half and Huby added the extras.
Chev Walker scored a hat-trick for Leeds, who gave a second senior appearance to Carl Ablett, crossing on 26, 36 and 39 minutes. Rob Burrow touched down twice and other try scorers were Willie Poching, debutant Ian Kirke, Danny McGuire, Richard Mathers, Ali Lauitiiti and Ryan Bailey.