Castleford Tigers 46 Bradford Bulls 34: Bradford’s late rally has Powell relieved by victory

ANOTHER Castleford Tigers game so yet another display of free-flowing, expressive, high-scoring rugby league – and pure palpitations galore.

Justin Carney stops Manase Manuokafoa

When Daryl Powell’s side do learn to defend and concentrate for a full 80 minutes, something you sense the former Great Britain international will eventually instil in them over the course of a full pre-season, they will be a formidable outfit.

The only problem is that Rangi Chase, who creates so much of their footballing magic, will be playing for Salford City Reds by then.

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How they replace such a brilliant conjurer remains to be seen.

In fairness, for all the mesmerising England half-back was involved in almost all of their seven tries yesterday, it was the actions of those at the coalface that deserve extra credit.

Castleford, with Ryan Boyle immense up front, had been leading 40-24 with just six minutes to go when they did what they ordinarily do and tried sending the blood pressure of Powell and all their fans into orbit.

They were already down to 12 men after substitute forward Charlie Martin foolishly tackled Bradford winger Jamie Foster as he tried to take a quick 20m restart in the 68th minute.

While he was off Bradford’s Elliott Kear and Danny Addy struck with quickfire tries to narrow the deficit to just six points and then suddenly the latter’s drop-off saw Brett Kearney seemingly destined for the goalline.

It is still unclear how but somehow Craig Huby, the hulking Castleford prop, emerged from nowhere to hit the Australian full-back and crucially dislodge the ball at the last.

Powell thought it had been Grant Millington who enacted it.

“It could have been Huby but I was losing all my hair and will to live at that point,” he smiled afterwards, such an erratic performance commonplace now.

“We don’t do anything easy. Getting Charlie sin-binned made it a difficult game for us in the end.

“It was pretty dumb. Bradford had started offloading pretty heavily at the back end of the first half and caused us some trouble so when they started doing it when we were a man down it was very difficult to defend. We were clinging on and it took that amazing tackle to keep them out.

“Charlie will learn from that and, obviously, I put Weller (Hauraki) back on once his 10 minutes was up as we just needed that experience out there.

“We’d carried (winger) Richard Owen on the bench as (scrum-half) Jamie Ellis was really struggling before the game and I wasn’t sure whether he’d get through it with a bad dead leg.

“We didn’t use Richard as it turns out. We were pretty skinny but I thought Boyley was unbelievable today the amount of time he was out there.

“His carries were amazing and we showed some real character.”

Defeat means Bradford’s faint hopes of reaching the play-offs are now over with the current eight, including relieved Hull KR and Hull FC, making up this season’s line-up.

However, the visitors could have been 18-0 up inside just eight minutes yesterday.

Fortunately, for Powell’s side, Bulls winger Jamie Foster hesitated when he only had to accelerate to the corner and that allowed Jordan Tansey and Kirk Dixon to bundle him into touch.

Bradford did, then, get off the mark when Jarrod Sammut showed great skill to pick up Manase Manuokafoa’s off-load on the bounce and dive over but the flamboyant Australian was denied a quick second when Foster’s pass was ruled forward.

Crucially, Castleford managed to score with their first real attack and settle all their early nerves, Dixon gathering Chase’s high kick to score and then add the first of his six conversions.

Impressive hooker Adam Milner got the first of his brace after Chase had sent Millington racing through a gap with Dixon’s kick seeing him reach 1,000 career points.

In the next set, Chase ghosted through himself before Michael Shenton dummied his way into space for Justin Carney to cross but Bradford responded when Addy’s dubious offload saw Kearney dart over as Castleford defenders waited thinking the tackle had been complete. Superb home defence saw both Adam O’Brien and Keith Lulia held up over the line before, again, Chase’s clever pass put Daryl Clark away for Milner’s second just before the interval, Dixon making it 22-12.

Bradford prop Nick Scruton twisted through from close range for his first try of the year in the 42nd minute, Foster’s third goal pulling it back to 22-18, but then Chase came up with a wonder try of his own.

He dummied across the line four times to completely bemuse the Bradford defence and finally scamper over.

The 2011 Man of Steel even beat a couple more defenders behind the goalline to improve Dixon’s chances of converting.

It was the gifted stand-off’s pinpoint grubber that sat up perfectly for Tansey to score next and, such was Chase’s constant threat, there was almost a sense of astonishment on the rare occasions he did actually get caught in possession.

However, Castleford inexplicably let the restart bounce which meant Sammut could pounce for his second but Powell’s side still scored despite losing Martin, Nathan Massey benefitting from good work from Huby.

Typically, madness ensured for a while as Bradford threatened that escape but Foster eased the pressure when his basic error allowed Ellis to run in on the final play.

Castleford: Tansey; Clare, Shenton, Dixon, Carney; Chase, Ellis; Boyle, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey. Substitutes: Owen (unused), Clark, Fleming, Martin.

Bradford: Kearney; Kear, Purtell, Lulia, Foster; Sammut, Addy; Scruton, Diskin, Manuokafua, Olbison, Blythe, Walker. Substitutes: Langley, Donaldson, O’Brien, Evans.

Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).