How Luke Gale held his nerve to send Castleford Tigers fans delirious

Luke Gale holds his nerve to kick the winning drop goal and send Castleford to Old Trafford (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

DRAGGING Luke Gale away from his friends and family in the joyous Tiger Bar underneath Wheldon Road’s main stand for an admittedly swift interview did feel a little harsh.

After all, having had his appendix removed only 16 days before, the Castleford scrum-half had just come through 86 minutes of high-octane action, steering his side to a famous Super League semi-final win over St Helens in one of the greatest games in recent memory.

Castleford players jump on Luke Gale after he scored the winning driop goal. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

It is, then, safe to say this man definitely deserved to enjoy his pint in peace on Thursday night.

However, at the same time, Gale certainly had – pardon the pun – a tale to regale.

Let’s rewind. Castleford, who had romped to the League Leaders’ Shield, were staring disaster in the face after squandering a 10- point lead inside the final 11 minutes against a super-confident Saints side suddenly playing like champions-in-waiting.

From 20-10 up, Cas were 
22-20 down after Ryan Morgan’s stunning try and left with barely 90 seconds remaining to rescue their campaign.

You know when you’re kicking well and all you have to think is it doesn’t matter if there’s two men and a dog there on your local field or there’s 15,000 watching,

Luke Gale

They did, though, as Gale held his nerve to slot a far-from-easy penalty after the final hooter and then, in golden-point extra-time, delivered a classy drop-goal to send Castleford – who have never won the championship – to their first-ever Grand Final.

How did he feel under such pressure especially initially for that penalty that saved their entire season?

Gale – who also scored a try and kicked all five of his goals – told The Yorkshire Post: “You know when you’re kicking well and all you have to think is it doesn’t matter if there’s two men and a dog there on your local field or there’s 15,000 watching.

“The process is the same. I was just in my own head. I didn’t want to take more time just because it was a tougher kick or because it’s more pressure.

Castleford's Luke Gale celebrates after scoring the winning drop goal. ( Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

“You just have to go through the same routine and same processes as you always do. I was mindful of not taking too long over it. Just do the usual thing. And it went over.”

In extra-time, Gale saw a 40m drop goal effort narrowly go wide before Saints’ Matty Smith skewed his own attempt, allowing Castleford’s Man of Steel candidate that crucial second chance.

Leeds-born Gale, 29, sprinted off to celebrate as Wheldon Road erupted before being mobbed by delirious team-mates following arguably the finest game in play-off history.

“I struck the first one well so I knew that wasn’t a scuff; it was a decent kick and I just started it too left,” he recalled, Saints’ Mark Percival crucially missing four of his five conversion attempts.

“So, when the second one came off I knew where it was going and I just started running...

“Probably 15 lads diving on me and my stomach didn’t help but it’s a special feeling; this is a special group of men. I’m honoured to be part of this team.”

The former Bradford Bulls captain – one of six Castleford players selected in the Super League Dream Team at the start of the week – now gets to play in the first Grand Final of his career next Saturday but will first challenge colleague Zak Hardaker and Hull FC’s Albert Kelly for Man of Steel honours on Tuesday.

There had been some debate about whether Gale would even play in the semi given that keyhole surgery barely a fortnight previously.

Coach Daryl Powell said he would test him on Wednesday but Gale, who broke the club’s points record for the season this term and is expected to be England’s No7 in the World Cup, revealed: “I just tackled (prop) Grant Millington a couple of times!

“I chose the biggest lad I could and let him run at me and then I ran at him.

“I tackled Millo twice and he said ‘you’re ready.’

“So that was it. I always felt all right. There was no way I was going to miss this game.

“I worked hard to get back and I wanted to make a difference; I didn’t just want to play and just be fit. I wanted to make a difference and thankfully I did.

“We went 20-10 up but, to be honest, Saints are a never-say-die team; there’s a lot of winners in that side.

“We’d gone from winning the game to losing it with about a minute to go. But we got the short kick-off and luckily got the ball back to square it up. The game was an emotional rollercoaster.”

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