AN hour of good rugby was enough to see Leeds Rhinos to a 40-22 victory over visitors Castleford Tigers, but a poor finish spoiled an encouraging display.
From Tigers’ point of view, it was a disappointing end to a poor week, though the result could have been much worse considering they trailed 40-6 with 20 minutes left.
News of provisional planning permission for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ new stadium had put Cas under pressure off the field before the YEP revealed that star youngster Daryl Clark had submitted a transfer request, which the club has rejected.
Then Man of Steel Rangi Chase – another player on a long-term deal who is being linked with a move away – was dropped from the team for yesterday’s game, allegedly for disciplinary reasons.
With no Chase, Cas had very little chance. They would have had excuses for throwing the towel in, especially when 34 points adrift, so deserve credit for showing some spirit.
Ironically, their best spell came when they were down to 12 men, after Richard Owen had been yellow carded; the visitors scoring two tries while he was off the field.
Cas actually scored the game’s final 16 points as – with the game won – Leeds stopped playing.
Nine of the hosts’ 17 were playing their third game in nine days, so it’s not surprising they ran out of steam, but the abysmal final quarter took some of the shine off a second successive win.
Leeds did score some nice tries and for an hour their defence was much-improved, though Tigers didn’t throw much at them.
England Knight Ben Jones-Bishop claimed two touchdowns in another impressive attacking performance, taking his try tally to seven in just over a week.
Leeds’ greatest threat was out wide, with opposite winger Ryan Hall also bagging a brace, while Zak Hardaker again impressed at full-back.
Jones-Bishop got over the line twice without reward before finally opening the scoring on nine minutes.
Nick Youngquest tackled him into touch before he got the ball down on five minutes and soon after he crossed from a pass by Danny McGuire which was ruled forward.
That looked like a poor call, but both teams – and Leeds in particular early on – got away with even more than the usual number of forward passes throughout the game.
Eventually a pass by Kallum Watkins – who made a strong comeback after a month on the injured list –- created a legitimate try after Rob Burrow, Kevin Sinfield and Hardaker had handled.
Soon after Watkins sent Jones-Bishop dashing away, but a brilliant Danny Orr tackle jarred the ball loose.
Orr then threw out a poor pass which was intercepted by McGuire and in the same set the No 6 put Stevie Ward into a gap and he offloaded out of Owen’s tackle to Burrow, who caught the ball behind his back, held on and zipped over untouched. Sinfield kicked the first of his six conversions.
Ward got a start at loose-forward and showed some nice touches in his specialist position.
McGuire played a one-two with Hall before sending Burrow in again and then Hall stretched over after catching Sinfield’s cross kick, but referee Tim Roby decided it was a double movement.
That produced the first of five successive penalties for Cas and following the last of those Paul Jackson – who battled hard off the bench – crashed over from a pass by Orr, who converted.
On the final play of the half Burrow played a one-two with Jamie Jones-Buchanan and then fed Carl Ablett, who did similar with Hall, before finally putting his winger in with a high pass.
Leeds scored three tries in the third quarter, to make the points safe. The first of those was an amazing effort, Hardaker stepping Owen and toying with Orr as he waited for support to arrive, before selflessly handing on to Watkins to score a comeback try.
Then Owen hurled out a poor pass which was hacked on by Jones-Bishop who gathered and coasted over untouched before Hall added his second, leaping to take Sinfield’s cross kick.
Tigers were reduced to 12 men with 19 minutes to go when Owen took offence at something and started throwing punches at Ablett, who eventually reacted, sparking a skirmish.
Surprisingly, Cas got the penalty – though no action was taken against Ablett – and they scored through Craig Huby in the resulting set, the prop also adding the extras.
Brett Ferres went over from McGoldrick’s pass soon afterwards and then crossed again in the final moments, McGoldrick converting.
The penalty count was 11-9 in Cas’ favour (6-5 to Tigers in the first half).