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It was anyone’s guess what would happen in the final game of Magic Weekend’s Saturday as two unpredictable sides took to the field with eighth placed Leeds Rhinos taking on a Castleford Tigers in eleventh place with only two wins so far this season, one against the Rhinos back in round five.

The Rhinos needed a massive win to lift them above St Helens into seventh on points difference, Castleford are three wins away from improving their league position, but the two points would give them some extra breathing space above the drop zone and Wakefield Trinity.

The Tigers were given an eight-point start on the coupon but anyone thinking of placing a bet was simply rolling the dice on the most unpredictable of fixtures, but with low expectations there was the chance that the game would serve up a classic.

The early position and possession was all in favour of the Rhinos and with five minutes on the clock Derrell Olpherts took a floated, miss-out, Blake Austin pass to walk in unopposed from ten metres down the left wing. Rhyse Martin added the touchline conversion for 6-0, just the start that Rohan Smith wanted from his side.

On eleven minutes a nice flowing move from Castleford, against the run of play, saw Jacob Miller start and end the move as he scored by the left upright. Gareth Widdop added the extras to level the scores, the Rhinos wondering what had just happened after they had totally dominated the opening exchanges.

On fourteen minutes it got better for the Tigers when they hit the front, Widdop the provider to Elliot Wallis who used his speed to evade the Rhinos cover to score five metres in from the touchline. Widdop was just wide with the conversion attempt but from nowhere, the Tigers had a 10-6 lead.

On thirty-two Luis Roberts did brilliantly to prevent Kenny Edwards from grounding as he got his body under the ball, but the pressure was all on the Rhinos line as the Tigers looked like a different side to the one which we´d seen so far this season.

Leeds were back on level terms on thirty-six when James Bentley chased down a McDonald grubber kick towards the posts after it evaded both Widdop and Cam Smith, the Rhinos man diving on the ball to ground. Rhyse Martin added the conversion, the Rhinos 12-10 in the lead.

Back-to-back penalties awarded against the Tigers opened the door for the Rhinos and on the fourth play a precision bullet pass from Austin found Martin who stepped through the Castleford line to score and improve the angle. Martin added the conversion to his own try for an eight-point lead.

Within three minutes the Tigers were back in for their third try of the game as Alex Mellor hit the Rhinos defensive line at pace, the centre sliding over the line to ground. Widdop hit the upright with his conversion attempt, the Tigers still four behind.

Bang on the hour mark Wallis went over in the corner but the video referee quickly saw that he’d grounded the ball on the line and ruled out the try, but Castleford were dominating the second half as they had the first.

On sixty-two Mikolaj Oledski took a Bentley offload to crash through the defensive line and ground under the sticks. Martin added the conversion for 24-14, a scrappy Leeds performance but they now had the initiative with just over a quarter of an hour remaining.

With eleven minutes remaining on the clock, Mellor found his way through three Leeds defenders to force the ball onto the ground and set up a grandstand finish. Widdop added the touchline conversion to reduce the margin of Leeds lead to just four points.

On seventy-three the scores were level again thanks to Jason Qareqare pushing through his tackler after an accurate fast-passing move on the powerplay, scoring ten in from the right touchline for 24-24. Widdop was again accurate with the boot from a difficult position to put Castleford into the lead and win them the crucial two points.

Another crazy game, and another close one involving the Leeds Rhinos which saw the lead and momentum swinging both ways. Castleford ground out the win, only their third of the season, and a double over their arch enemy from up the road. It wasn’t the most skilful of games, more of a grind from both sides, but it kept the crowd in the stadium, and on TV, entertained. Both sides kept us guessing down to the dying seconds, but it was two precious points for the Tigers to ease them closer to safety, and a loss for the Rhinos which makes it look increasingly unlikely that they will qualify for the play offs.

Leeds Rhinos: Handley, MacDonald, Roberts, Martin (T, 4G), Olpherts (T), Austin, Myler, Oledzki (T), O’Connor, Walters, McDonnell, Donaldson, Smith.  Subs: Johnson, Bentley (T), Tindall, Sangare. 18th Man: Ruan.

Castleford Tigers: Widdop (3G), Qareqare (T), Mellor (2T), Turner, Wallis (T), Broadbent, Miller (T), Matagi, McShane, Watts, Edwards, Lawler, Westerman. Subs: Griffin, Mustapha, Martin, Hall. 18th Man: Robb.

Half-Time: 12-10.

Full-Time: 24-26.

Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 6-10, 10-10, 12-10 : HT: 16-10, 18-10, 18-14, 22-14, 24-14, 24-18, 24-20, 24-24, 24-26 :FT.

Lead Exchanges: Leeds – Square – Castleford – Square – Leeds – Square – Castleford.

Referee: Ben Thaler.

Day Attendance: 36,943.

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Posted by RLFANS News Hound on Sat 3rd Jun 2023 7:53 PM | Views : 2761 | Replies : 0 | BACK TO STORIES