Castleford Tigers 12
Tries: Shenton (2)
Goals: Gale 2/2
Leeds Rhinos 26
Tries: Moon, Hall (2), Ward, Cuthbertson
Goals: Sutcliffe 3/5
Leeds Rhinos defeated Yorkshire rivals Castleford at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle to move two points clear at the top of the Super League table.
It was Leeds’ sixth win in their last seven visits to Wheldon Road in the two sides’ first meeting since last year’s Challenge Cup Final.
The Rhinos were reduced to 12 men after four minutes when referee Ben Thaler sent Ryan Hall to the sin bin. The winger chased down Luke Gale to halt a Cas break and held onto the scrum-half, preventing the play the ball and giving his team mates the chance to get back their defensive shape.
Leeds scored the first try of the afternoon moments after Hall re-entered the game, Joel Moon crossing on the left for his first of the season after Jamie Peacock, Brad Singleton and Danny McGuire combined to create the opening.
Hall scored his first try of the afternoon after an Adam Cuthbertson offload created him some space again on the Castleford right-edge. Liam Sutcliffe converted from the touchline in the absence of club captain Kevin Sinfield, and Leeds led 10-0.
The Tigers got on the scoreboard on 26 minutes, Liam Finn dabbing though a perfectly weighted kick which was pounced on by Michael Shenton. The former England international beat Zak Hardaker to ground the ball and Gale’s conversion reduced the deficit to just four points.
But the Rhinos scored again just before half-time to reopen a 10-point lead. Sutcliffe’s low kick in goal was chased down by Stevie Ward who beat Finn to it to score. Sutcliffe’s conversion made it 16-6 to the visitors at the break.
Leeds might have extended the lead 10 minutes into the second-half when Cuthbertson appeared to crash over near the sticks, despite the attention of Luke Dorn. The decision was sent up to the video referees and replays showed that the Castleford full-back had done fantastically to prevent the big prop from grounding the ball.
Soon after, the home side should have scored their second try of the game when Justin Carney found himself galloping to the line, only for young winger Ash Handley to chase back and grab his ankles. Adam Milner was up in support and with no other Rhinos players near, the hooker would have been in for a certain try. Carney, however, held on to the ball and Handley managed to complete the tackle as his team mates flooded back to defend their line.
Moments later, Carney made amends by stopping Hardaker after the Leeds full-back had made a break from inside his own half.
Hall scored his second try of the game with 16 minutes remaining to put the result beyond the reach of the hosts. McGuire’s superb cut-out pass found Moon who was up against James Clare with Hall outside him on the left wing. Moon fed Hall and Leeds moved into a 20-6 lead.
Cuthbertson had a fine game and added his name to the try scorer’s list after he showed neat footwork for a big man, spinning away from Scott Wheeldon before holding off the challenge of Dorn and Nathan Massey to put the result beyond any doubt. Sutcliffe’s third successful goal of the game made it 26-6 in favour of The Rhinos.
Shenton’s second try of the afternoon came four minutes before the final hooter to give The Tigers some consolation. He and Carney combined brilliantly to create the try and Gale’s conversion made the scoreline look a little more respectable.
Leeds are at home to bottom of the table Wakefield on Easter Monday while Castleford face a tough trip to Warrington.
Man of the Match: Adam Cuthbertson