Leeds Rhinos 10 Castleford Tigers 18 – Injury-hit Rhinos edged out by impressive Tigers
UP AGAINST it from the moment the teamsheet was handed in, Leeds Rhinos gave a good account of themselves but found Castleford Tigers too strong in a hard-fought derby at St Helens.
It looked like being a long Good Friday for Rhinos when Richie Myler - with a hamstring problem - became the eighth player and seventh back on Leeds’ casualty list.
But after Cas had gone 12-0 up after 23 minutes, they were forced to dig deep and didn’t make the game safe until inside the final 10 minutes.
Tigers shaded it and just about deserved their 18-10 win. They look like being a good side this year; Niall Evalds and Jake Trueman are already becoming a quality combination in their spine and Oliver Holmes had a terrific game in the pack, but Leeds are certainly spirited and the game was much closer than the lineups suggested it might be.
It wouldn’t be fair to describe Rhinos’ outside-backs as weak, but - other than Tom and Luke Briscoe - they were inexperienced.
Cas have two good halves who made sure they threw plenty of traffic at the rookies, but - though lack of experience showed at times - all of them could hold their head up at the end.
Jack Broadbent, filling in at full-back, continued to display real promise and his pass created Rhinos’ try.
Alex Sutcliffe is a strong front-on defender and fellow centre Corey Hall, only 18, made a brilliant tackle to force Liam Watts into a knock-on and looked self-assured.
But any team would miss the likes of Myler, Jack Walker, Ash Handley, Konrad Hurrell and Harry Newman and Rhinos will grow in confidence when they get at least some of them back.
Tigers’ first touchdown came after 12 minutes, following a break up the middle by Peter Mata’utia.
The centre put his side under pressure with a couple of brain explosions, but made the biggest tackle of the game, a monster which forced the ball out of Broadbent’s grasp.
Holmes, sent off against Rhinos last October, continued his impressive start to the campaign as some smart footwork close to the line took him over for his second try in successive games.
Rhinos had gone close before that when Rhyse Martin was held up over the line, Holmes being involved in the tackle and Liam Sutcliffe was pulled down just short soon after the opening score.
Evalds followed Holmes’ lead with his second try in two matches, after 24 minutes. The try was created by Trueman whose lovely pass put Cheyse Blair into space and he drew the full-back before sending Evalds over.
That came after some strong defence from Rhinos had pinned Tigers inside their own 20, only for that good work to be undone by a penalty for a high tackle.
Castleford committed the same sin just three minutes later, Blair felling Luke Briscoe to give Rhinos a lift upfield.
A ball steal penalty gave them another set and Luke Briscoe finished superbly at the corner off a fine long pass by Broadbent.
Video official Ben Thaler spared referee Liam Moore’s blushes six minutes before half-time when he ruled out a touchdown by Derrell Olpherts.
Jesse Sene-Lefao lost the ball, Moore signalled play on and Olpherts picked up to scoot over, much to the anger of Leeds captain Luke Gale. Moore signalled a try, but was overruled by Thaler.
Tigers have signed Evalds principally for his try-scoring prowess, but he’s also a strong defender as he proved with a terrific tackle to halt an on-rushing Zane Tetevano who had been put clear by Cameron Smith.
The powerful Kiwi had a good game, running hard and putting in some big hits, most notably on Olpherts.
Castleford’s defence on their own line was excellent and they stood firm under heavy pressure just before the break, Adam Milner getting under Bodene Thompson to hold him up over the whitewash.
Cameron Smith made an early error after coming off the bench, but was impressive after that and twice kept Leeds in the game at the start of the second half, dragging the ball out of Danny Richardson’s grasp after he looked set to score off a one-two with Holmes and then producing a copybook tackle to pull down Trueman.
Rhinos missed a chance when Luke Briscoe was unable to take Alex Sutcliffe’s pass off good play by Alex Mellor, but cut the gap to two points with 19 minutes left.
Kruise Leeming returned for a second stint at acting-half and his scoot on the last caught Tigers’ defence napping before he slipped the ball out to Matt Prior wh stretched over for a try which Martin improved.
Leeds scrambled very well in defence, but conceded four set restarts - to Tigers’ two - and one of those proved perhaps the biggest point in the game, with nine minutes left.
Tigers took advantage with Trueman and Evalds linking to find Jordan Turner and he added to his round one brace with the game-breaking try, Richardson landing his third goal.
The penalty count finished six-five in Leeds’ favour (three-three in the first half).
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