COACH OF the year Daryl Powell finally broke his duck against his old club last night as Castleford Tigers won 31-24 at Leeds Rhinos.
It was Powell’s sixth time coaching Tigers against Leeds and the first time they have claimed the spoils.
Last night’s result lifted Tigers into fourth place and means Leeds – who led the table by six points in April – could be knocked off top spot tonight, by either St Helens or Wigan Warriors.
Tigers scored five tries to four and deserved their victory, particularly for a fine defensive effort under heavy pressure at times.
Fast-starting Tigers caught Leeds cold in the opening exchanges, but the hosts hit back to go in only two points adrift at the break, having trailed 18-0 after 16 minutes.
There was a try each in the third quarter and it was nip and tuck until the closing stages. A penalty levelled the scores, but Liam Finn kicked Tigers back in front and an error by Ash Handley handed the winning try to Denny Solomona.
Leeds were playing their second game in five days, but Rhinos coach Brian McDermott made just one change to the team which started against Wakefield on Sunday.
Brad Singleton stepped up off the bench into the front-row, with Adam Cuthbertson moving to loose-forward.
Kevin Sinfield dropped to the bench, alongside Kylie Leuluai who returned after almost three months out, following shoulder surgery.
Andy Yates, who hadn’t been named in the initial 19, retained his place on the bench after Joel Moon – due to return after suspension – missed out due to an Achilles problem.
Sinfield was Rhinos’ second substitute used, coming on at hooker after 54 minutes. Yates was introduced with 18 left, though he only got eight minutes and Walters wasn’t used.
Leuluai made a decent return with some strong stints and he will give Rhinos’ squad a boost when he’s match fit.
Young half-back Jordan Lilley dropped out of the 17 and is due to play on dual-registration for Hunslet Hawks at home to Halifax tonight.
For Tigers, Scott Moore returned at hooker in the only change to the 13 which started against Hull KR a week ago.
Adam Milner dropped to the bench. Ryan Bailey, fit after a calf injury, was also among the substitutes for his first appearance against the club with which he won six Grand Finals.
Will Maher and ex-Leeds man Jordan Tansey dropped out from last week’s bench.
The first half was a half of two halves, Tigers dominating the opening 20 before Leeds hit back.
It was the third successive game Tigers have roared out of the blocks, scored three quick tries and then allowed the opposition to get back in the contest.
Leeds couldn’t keep hold of the ball early on and it cost them. They lost possession early in the tackle count 10 metres from their own line twice in the first six minutes, Sutcliffe and Handley being the culprits.
On the first occasion Finn also knocked on and Rhinos survived the second set without any real alarms.
But after eight minutes they again turned the ball over inside their own half, this time due to a forward pass by Paul Aiton and Cas took advantage as Grant Millington – who had an excellent game – cut through a huge gap from the impressive Nathan Massey’s pass.
Luke Gale, another of Tigers’ best, converted booted a 40-20 in the next set, Sutcliffe being unable to keep the ball in play.
Moore found Finn from acting half and the stand-off stretched over for a try which was confirmed by video referees Ben Thaler and Steve Ganson. Then on 16 minutes Shenton knocked the ball from Carl Ablett’s grasp, picked up and sped away for the visitors’ third try, Gale’s conversion making it 18-0 without Leeds having been in possession in Tigers’ half.
It was the second quarter before Leeds created a chance of their own, as opposed to one for the opposition.
That came off a mistake, Solomona knocking-on. Gale went high on Sutcliffe in the subsequent set and Singleton – Leeds’ best forward – forced his way over the line, but was held up. Rhinos received three penalties and after squandering the first two, took advantage of the third – harshly awarded against Jake Webster for interference on Ryan Hall – as Ablett bumped off Gale to go over following handling by Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire.
Sutcliffe booted the extras. McGuire was held up over the line moments later as Leeds finally managed to get up a head of steam, thanks largely to the five penalties they received before the break.
After Peacock had almost forced his way over McGuire hurled out a long pass and Hall dived in at the corner, though Sutcliffe could not convert.
In the final three minutes of the half, Kallum Watkins became the third Leeds player to get over the line without putting the ball down.
In the same set, though, Aiton’s pass found Cuthbertson and he twisted over between the posts, Sutcliffe’s goal cutting Tigers’ lead to just two points when the hooter sounded.
Tigers’ first penalty didn’t come until the 45th minute, but it led to them extending their lead. Stevie Ward went high on Ash Gibson and on the final play of the resulting set Solomona put the ball down one-handed at the corner after Finn, Gale and Shenton had handled.
Gale landed a brilliant touchline conversion and Cas should have gone further in front moments later when McGuire fumbled near Cas’ line and Ben Roberts picked up and dashed away, but referee James Child called him back due to a Tigers knock-on which only he noticed.
On 56 minutes Milner knocked-on near his own line.
Sinfield was at loose-forward from the scrum and he, Cuthbertson and McGuire worked the ball to Jimmy Keinhorst, who finished well on the other flank.
Sinfield’s conversion made it a two-point ball game again and it took a magnificent tackle by Shenton on McGuire to preserve Tigers’ lead early in the final quarter.
With 10 minutes left Shenton was penalised for interference on Ablett and Sinfield kicked the goal to square the scores
But mistakes cost Leeds in the end.
Cuthbertson knocked-on in the set from the re-start and Finn landed a drop goal to edge Cas back in front.
At the end of the next set Gale launched a high kick at Handley, he dropped it and Solomona picked up to touchdown, the No 7 booting his fifth conversion to complete the scoring.
The penalty count finished 7-3 in Rhinos’ favour.