Leeds Rhinos’ two-time Grand Final winning head coach Brian McDermott said Castleford Tigers are the “real deal” after Thursday’s epic 24-24 draw between the sides but the Wheldon Roaders’ own full-back, Luke Dorn, thinks differently.
The Australian insists if his vibrant team are truly to be considered as potential league winners for the first time in their 88-year history, or go on and taste success at Wembley in the Challenge Cup next month, they have to be prospering in such high-level encounters.
Castleford, undoubtedly, have been the surprise package of the season but, as the time for handing out silverware draws closer, they are putting pressure on themselves to deliver.
Even though they needed Grant Millington’s 74th-minute converted try to level at Headingley, Dorn felt it was still a point lost rather than gained.
“I thought we were the better team,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“We had that ‘try’ chalked off that I thought was a fair try (from Justin Carney) and you can put that in the hat with the other 15 like that we’ve had this year so far.
“We score that, we win the game. It’s disappointing as I thought we were all over Leeds at times. They’re a great side and they just didn’t let us get it.”
Dorn refers to Carney’s effort early in the second half when the scores were still locked at 18-18 which was ruled out by the video officials for a highly dubious obstruction decision.
However, the major talking point was the dismissal of Leeds and England captain Kevin Sinfield, the decorated stand-off receiving his first red card in 17 years of professional rugby for head-butting Dorn.
He reacted completely uncharacteristically after being penalised for holding down the Castleford player seven minutes from time.
Dorn was as bemused as anyone in the 16,173 crowd by Sinfield’s wild act. “I don’t know what happened,” admitted the 32-year-old, who has been a revelation in his second spell at Wheldon Road this term since rejoining from London Broncos.
“He said something to me, I said it back and I didn’t think there was anything in it.
“But things happen in games and that’s just how it is.
“It doesn’t bother me. Once they’re off the field I couldn’t care less about it.”
Castleford, who are challenging Leeds, St Helens and Wigan for the League Leaders shield, did score from the resultant possession as Millington went over.
“It did help us,” added Dorn.
“It would have been nice having a bit more time on the clock but we still had our opportunities and we didn’t take them.
“If we’re serious about where we want to go in ‘finals time’ then those opportunities have got to be taken.
“It’s a point, no matter, and a good result at a place like Headingley against an almost full-strength Leeds, but we’re very disappointed we didn’t get the win.
“Yet it’s a good dress rehearsal for some semi-final stuff.”
Castleford play Widnes Vikings in the Challenge Cup last four next month but, firstly, they head to Hull FC for a third successive Thursday televised league tie.
Dorn, who returned to action at Leeds after being left out of their previous win over Huddersfield Giants, said: “They have such a good team but have been a little bit inconsistent.
“They’ve still had some great wins and it’s always tough over there. We’ll have to toughen right up and fix up some areas.”
The battle for the full-back shirt at Castleford continues to be relentless. Stand-off Marc Sneyd showed up well there in the previous win against Huddersfield, James Clare has impressed at times while ex-Leeds and Hull full-back Jordan Tansey is another now waiting frustratedly in the wings.
It means Dorn has to perform but he always looked dangerous in possession at Leeds and said: “I was happy overall. I was disappointed I threw a few passes that hit the deck after a few breaks. That probably cost us but all in all I was fairly solid and playing in derbies like that is what you want to do. I would have liked to be better but hopefully that’s what next week can be about over at Hull.”