LEEDS RHINOS boss Brian McDermott admitted his team did not deserve to beat Castleford Tigers at Elland Road last night, despite scoring five tries to four.
McDermott was proud of his team’s spirit, but felt they weren’t good enough early in the game. There were also mixed emotions for Tigers coach Daryl Powell after his men raced into a huge early lead and then almost threw it away.
Tigers hung on for a 25-24 victory after leading 24-0 after as many minutes, but Rhinos could have won had Kallum Watkins landed a touchline conversion two minutes from time.
Luke Gale’s drop goal after the half-time hooter proved the difference between last year’s Betfred Super League Grand Finalists.
The game attracted a crowd of 23,246, which was Leeds’ best ‘home’ attendance in Super League.
McDermott described Rhinos’ fightback as “very courageous”.
He said: “We were 24-0 down, but we cracked them open a couple of times and kept going at them.
“Defensively we were very good at times, but you have to point a finger at the first 15 minutes – there was just a bit too much wrong with our game.
“I don’t think we were massively off, but a few things weren’t quite right and Cas exploited it.
“I don’t think Cas were white hot or anything to start with, but we were off.
“We need to be better in the first 15 minutes and for that reason we didn’t deserve to win.”
Tigers coach Daryl Powell said: “For 20 minutes we were great - and for the rest of the game we weren’t.”
He added: “I couldn’t believe that sort of throwaway drop goal just before half-time ended up winning us the game.
“It’s a strange game, rugby league. We started like a house on fire, everything we’d talked about, the boys applied it.
“Then I don’t know what happened. We haven’t played many games so we are not conditioned to the rigours of rugby league on a week-to-week basis so whether there’s some of that in there who knows, but I thought Leeds played really well.
“They challenged us and they never go away. To be as far up as we were and then fall away was pretty disappointing.”