CASTLEFORD TIGERS have it all to do if they are to qualify for the Super League semi-finals after a 40-26 defeat at Huddersfield Giants last night.
Mike McMeeken’s first half yellow card proved crucial as Tigers went from 10-0 up to 14 points down at the break.
Tigers cut the cap to just four mid-way through the second half, but then ran out of steam as the hosts added three late tries, including one for big Eorl Crabtree on his 400th club appearance.
Fifth-placed Cas are now four points behind Giants, who are third and two adrift of St Helens, who visit Leeds Rhinos tonight.
Tigers looked in good shape until McMeeken was sin-binned for tripping Joe Wardle at the end of the opening quarter.
Cas didn’t have possession during McMeeken’s 10 minutes on the naughty step and during that time Giants ran in four tries, two converted by Danny Brough, to lead 20-10.
Craig Huby put Ukama Ta’ai over in the set after the penalty, then Michael Channing was penalised for a high shot on Jermaine McGillvary, which sparked a minor scuffle.
In the resulting set McMeeken extracted full revenge by nipping over from a pass by Leroy Cudjoe, who had evaded Denny Solomona.
Bad went to worse when McGillvary raced over from deep inside his own half, getting past Solomona and Luke Dorn and then Jake Connor scored on the other side from Ta’ai’s dubious pass.
McMeeken’s return stemmed the tide, but Giants did strike again just before the break, through Aaron Murphy, to send them in with a 24-10 lead.
Cas had made a fine start with early tries by Luke Gale and – an excellent solo effort – and Damian Gibson, off terrific play by Ben Roberts.
They also came out strongly after half-time, cutting the gap to eight points when Dorn went over from a pass by Gale, who landed his second conversion.
Cas had an escape when Jamie Ellis touched down from Brough’s grubber kick, but referee Robert Hicks thought he was offside and video assistants Ben Thaler and George Stokes agreed.
With 18 minutes left Murphy spilled Gale’s bomb near his own line and Roberts – playing at stand-off after Liam Finn was left out – zipped over for a classy try from the scrum base.
There was no goal and Giants moved two scores clear again just four minutes later when neat footwork got Wardle on the outside of the defence and he crossed for an unconverted try in the corner.
With nine left the video referees awarded a try to Ellis on the basis his little finger was in contact with the ball over the line, the same player adding the extras before Crabtree’s big moment, which which was also converted.
With seconds left Solomona – back after injury in place of Justin Carney, who has been suspended by the club – raced clear from Dorn’s pass almost on Cas’ line and Gale’s third goal completed the scoring.
Castleford will not comment on the Carney matter but, asked if he hopes it will come to a conclusion sooner rather than later, head coach Daryl Powell said: “I’d hope so.
“The disciplinary is coming to the point where hopefully it will be finalised soon.
“We’ve moved on. It’s about the players on the field who are important to us and I think the performance showed that the spirit, togetherness and unity is evident for all to see.”
Castleford were made to pay for McMeeken’s yellow card, though.
Powell said: “When were a man down it just flipped the game.
“We were 10-0 up, defending pretty well and causing some trouble in good field positions.
“But we got peppered in that spell and then, when we got back to within shooting distance at the end, we just couldn’t go on and Huddersfield have two of the best kickers around as they showed with a pretty special display.”
Huddersfield Giants: Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Connor, Murphy, Brough, Ellis, Crabtree, Robinson, Huby, Wardle, Hughes, Ta’ai. Subs Lawrence, Kopczak, Leeming, Smith.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn, Gibson, McMeeken, Channing, Solomona, Roberts, Gale, Lynch, Milner, Wheeldon, Millington, Moors, Massey. Subs Cook, Boyle, Springer, McShane.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).