Leeds Rhinos 18 Castleford Tigers 32 - Castleford cash-in as sloppy Leeds pay price for errors

A CASTLEFORD TIGERS avenged their huge home defeat by Leeds Rhinos in May with a hard-fought, but ultimately comprehensive, 32-18 win at Emerald Headingley last night.

In the corner: Captain Ash Handley scores the Rhinos second try.
Picture Bruce Rollinson
In the corner: Captain Ash Handley scores the Rhinos second try. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Although exciting at times and played at a good pace, it was a scrappy derby between two teams missing some of their most influential players.

Castleford won it because they made fewer errors, defended superbly and took their limited opportunities when they came.

Leeds had enough possession, particularly at the start of each half, but – despite a big effort from stand-off Rob Lui in only his third game of the season – their execution was very poor.

Captain's salute: Ash Handley celebrates after scoring the Rhinos second try against Cas. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Most of Tigers’ tries followed errors by Leeds and Rhinos’ last tackle options were poor.

Rhinos might have gone on with the game if they had been able to get off to a good start, but Tigers defended magnificently in the face of an early onslaught.

A defender’s hand prevented Harry Newman sending Ash Handley over, Zane Tetevano and Richie Myler went close and Newman was held up over the line, with Gareth O’Brien underneath him.

Another chance was missed by Leeds as Tom Briscoe jinked infield and was tackled when it looked like he would score from Myler’s pass, but having hung on by their fingernails for 15 minutes, Tigers took advantage of Rhinos’ errors to go 14 points ahead in the next eight.

Blow: King Vuniyaywa was forced off with a concussion injury during th dfeat by Tigers. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The home team managed to pull a try back after Tigers were temporarily reduced to 12 men, with Peter Mata’utia in the sin-bin.

That was one of six penalties conceded by the visitors in the opening half – and nine overall, to Tigers’ three – but Leeds were unable to add any more points before the break.

Leeds did close the gap for a spell in the second period, but didn’t have the smarts to pull the game from the fire.

It was Tigers’ third win from 11 matches in all competitions and their only Super League victories since April have been away to their two fiercest and closest rivals, Wakefield Trinity and Rhinos.

Held: Konrad Hurrell's run is halted by Cas forward Jesse Sene-Lefao. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Whether this one can kick-start a push up the table into the top-six remains to be seen, but better players bring improved results and Castleford’s side featured 10 players who didn’t play in Monday’s home loss to Huddersfield Giants.

Leeds didn’t lack effort and the likes of Konrad Hurrell, Handley and Cameron Smith had good moments, but overall they weren’t good enough in any department.

Tigers punished a Rhinos blunder on their first incursion into home territory.

Rhyse Martin spilled Kruise Leeming’s pass 10 metres out and Jordan Turner picked up to send Greg Eden over for a try which Danny Richardson improved for the first of his five goals from as many attempts.

The scrum-half extended the lead with a penalty – for a high tackle by Lui on Niall Evalds – after 22 minute; the restart sailed out on the full and in the resulting set, Evalds sent Mata’utia over for an easy try and the conversion gave the hosts a 14-0 lead.

Matautia was sin-binned seven minutes after his try after tackling Handley in the air, Cas immediately conceded another penalty and Rhinos opened their account in the next set through Lui, who stepped over for a converted try from close-range off Leeming’s pass.

A stunning try-saving tackle by Jesse Sene-Lefao, who forced the ball loose from Sutcliffe’s grasp, just before the break prevented Leeds cutting the lead further and it might have been a different game if Rhinos had scored then.

Leeds made a change at half-time when Brad Dwyer replaced Sutcliffe - who was struggling with a sore knee - and Leeming switched into the halves. They were back in the game within nine minutes of the resumption, through captain for the night Handley.

He finished superbly at the corner from Newman’s pass after Leeming and Myler had handled and Martin tagged on the two from the touchline to make it a two-point ball game.

At that stage all the momentum was with Leeds, but – as in the first half – Tigers proved ruthless when they got out into opposition territory.

Paul McShane made the break and though he was tackled by Myler, the former Rhinos hooker created a try with a kick across field which Eden caught and tipped on to Turner. Richardson’s kick went over off the metalwork to give Tigers a two-score lead going into the final quarter.

Tigers would have sealed it with 13 minutes left but for a brilliant tackle by Dwyer on Eden, but the winger crossed in the 74th minute after Evalds got to Richardson’s kick ahead of Myler and Evalds batted it back.

Dwyer pulled a solo try back with a couple of minutes left and Martin added the extras, taking his 100 per cent kicking record to 33 successive goals.

But in the final seconds, Evalds made a break, was tackled just short – a good effort by Morgan Gannon – but Derrell Olpherts shipped the ball wide to Jimmy Keinhorst who scored moments after coming on. Rhinos were down on ‘middles’ from the start, with Mikolaj Oledzki being ruled out because of a long-term foot injury and Matt Prior also absent, due to Covid.

That meant a rare start for King Vuniyayawa, but he lasted only 19 minutes before Tigers’ substitute Suaia Matagi ran straight over the top of him with his first carry and the Fijian’s latest concussion ruled him out for the rest of the game. He was able to walk off after lengthy treatment on the field.

It was referee Ben Thaler’s 400th Super League game. Rhinos had four six-agains toTigers’ three.