Castleford Tigers’ Luke Gale keen to play more ‘mini Grand Finals’

Castleford's Luke Gale consoles Leeds players after their victory at Elland Road.
Castleford's Luke Gale consoles Leeds players after their victory at Elland Road.
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MAN of Steel Luke Gale would like to see more Betfred Super League games taken to big, ‘neutral’ venues.

Gale was Castleford Tigers’ match winner in their 25-24 victory over Leeds Rhinos, played in front of a 23,246 crowd at Elland Road.

It was Leeds’s best ‘home’ Super League gate and their second-highest for a league match in more than half a century.

Rhinos have played two games at Leeds United’s ground this year during rebuilding work at their own Emerald Headingley Stadium and last month’s clash with Hull KR was watched by more than 16,000 fans.

The next meeting between Castleford and Leeds will also be at a football stadium as the West Yorkshire rivals are due to close the opening day of May’s Magic Weekend at St James’ Park in Newcastle. That will make three in a row, following last season’s Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Gale paid tribute to both sets of fans for the atmosphere created on Friday night and said he would be “all for” other games being taken to similar venues.

It ebbs and flows throughout the year. I am sure we will go through a patch where people will say we are title contenders, then you have one bad game and they write you off.

Castleford Tigers’ Luke Gale

“It is a great concept at Elland Road, it was kind of like a mini Grand Final,” said the England scrum-half, who kicked four conversions from as many attempts and landed what proved to be the decisive drop goal on the stroke of half-time.

“The atmosphere was outstanding and I really enjoyed playing there. It feels a bit different to a normal round, a bit more special. The boys enjoyed it and I think it was a great game to watch.”

Castleford firmly hold the upper hand, having won nine of the sides’ last 10 showdowns, though the exception was the 2017 Super League decider.

They seemed to be on course for a huge victory when leading 24-0 after as many minutes of the game three days ago but Leeds staged a remarkable fightback, scoring five unanswered tries and might have won had Kallum Watkins landed a touchline conversion two minutes from time.

The opening quarter was Castleford’s best spell of the season so far and they have now won four successive games since a 46-6 drubbing at St Helens in round one.

Gale remains confident they can go one better than last year, but is happy to have the spotlight directed elsewhere.

“In house we know we can be title contenders,” he said. “I don’t mind the underdog status, everyone kind of wrote us off when St Helens racked up a big score on us.

“It ebbs and flows throughout the year. I am sure we will go through a patch where people will say we are title contenders, then you have one bad game and they write you off.

“I think it’s sport in general, but I don’t mind going under the radar.”

He added: “We might not be playing at our best, but we are still racking the wins up. No one remembers the games in March or how much you win them by, as long as you keep getting two points.

“That’s the basis we’ll be going on.”

Gale had “mixed emotions” after the rollercoaster against Leeds, rating Castleford as “awesome” in the opening 20 minutes, but admitting they were “on the back foot” for the rest of the game.

“We were good at the start,” he said. “But Leeds did what they do best, they come back and they are always in it.

“We got out to a 24-0 lead and you know when things go that well there’s going to be a point in the game where you’re going to be on the back foot and things aren’t going to go your way.

“I reckon we were scrappy. I’ve got mixed emotions really, it was a massive win, but we weren’t that great and we’ve got room for improvement.”

Of his one-pointer, which made it 25-10 at half-time, Gale said: “There was probably 10 seconds to go and I thought I’d have a crack.

“I normally like them from 20 metres and in, I don’t have the legs for it from that far out, but I struck it well and luckily it went over.”