THIS is probably what could be termed the ‘archetypal’ third game of Easter.
Tired bodies, depleted sides, points galore, mistakes aplenty and general chaos at times ensued at Wheldon Road.
The upshot of it all, however, is that Jy Hitchcox’s hat-trick try in the 75th minute delivered Castleford Tigers a priceless win and left hapless Huddersfield Giants in an even bigger hole than Leeds Rhinos.
In truth, the visitors should really have picked up only their second victory of the year yesterday when prop Sam Rapira, their winter signing from New Zealand Warriors, powered over in the 62nd minute for his first try in club colours.
Danny Brough converted for a 30-22 lead and, with Giants’ greater experience and wherewithal, you presumed they looked readied to finish their West Yorkshire rivals off.
However, this is also a team that is rooted to the bottom of the table, bereft of confidence, and it showed as last season’s Super League semi-finals construed to utterly mess up that winning position.
Instead, resilient Castleford, despite missing 10 first-teamers and having seen Grant Millington limp off in the first half, surged back courtesy of three tries in just seven minutes.
With 20-year-old stand-off Tom Holmes impressing on his first start and, at the other end of the spectrum, 36-year-old prop Andy Lynch as forceful as ever, no one could argue they did not deserve to win.
Adam Milner ripped possession from Rapira for Luke Gale, effusive as always at scrum-half, to send out a long pass for Hitchcox’s second try in the 69th minute.
Then Jake Webster powered through Ryan Brierley, Huddersfield’s recent signing from Leigh Centurions who proved here he is not a full-back, to give Castleford the lead.
Hitchcox added his third after some quality work out wide from a genuine full-back – Ryan Hampshire – and it proved crucial as Huddersfield’s England winger Jermaine McGillvary, in his 200th game, completed his own treble in the dying stages to leave them just four points behind.
“It was a crazy game,” admitted Powell, who also saw improving second-row Mike McMeeken score twice and provide a clever assist for winger Greg Minikin, Gale adding five goals.
“And it was a massive win. I said to (assistant) Danny Orr beforehand about whether we’d have enough to beat them but we did, just about.
“Galey came up with some key plays at the end and I thought young Tom Holmes did well.
“To beat Leeds and Huddersfield here despite being down on troops is big for us and for some of the young kids to get experience was great.
“It wasn’t a great spectacle; there were a lot of errors and high drama with the ending, but from a coach’s point of view, it wasn’t one for the purists.”
Powell also revealed just what Hitchcox, who signed from part-timers Featherstone Rovers in the off-season, went through to score that hat-trick as Castleford picked up only their second win in six games. “He’s been having around 25 injections in his hand over the last two weeks to play so it’s a real tough effort from him,” said the coach.
“He dislocated three fingers against Leeds that went back in – it’s not broken – but his hand is black.
“He hadn’t trained all week and had to have painkilling injections just to train so to finish those tries in the way he did was impressive.”
Huddersfield’s England centre Leroy Cudjoe scored a brace and, in tandem with McGillvary, was the visitors’ most potent threat.
Castleford had the better of the attacking play in the first half, especially given Huddersfield’s continual laxness with the ball.
However, they conspired to run too many chances, none more so than when, leading 12-6 in the 35th minute.
Ben Crooks found space running onto Holmes’s flighted pass but the centre – who had earlier wasted another opportunity when passing into touch – ignored support on either side and eventually lost possession.
That looked costly as, soon after, the visitors finally found some clarity as Jake Connor and Cudjoe created a chance for McGillvary’s first.
Brough was in form with the boot, at least, curling over one of five conversions, to make it 12-12.
However, the Scotland star’s latest off-cue pass saw Joe Wardle spill and, from there, Hitchcox added his first on the stroke of half-time following some smart build-up play from Gale and Webster.
The second half had all that drama but it was defiant Castleford, who head to Widnes on Sunday, who made it home.
Castleford Tigers: Hampshire; Minikin, Crooks, Webster, Hitchcox; Holmes, Gale; Lynch, Milner, Jewitt, McMeeken, Millington, Massey. Substitutes: Cook, McShane, Mayher, Boyle.
Huddersfield Giants: Brierley; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy; Brough, Connor; Rapira, Hinchcliffe, Huby, Lawrence, Ta’ai, Roberts. Substitutes: Crabtree, Patrick, Mason, M Wood.
Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).