Leeds 24 Castleford 31: Tigers hold on to beat leaders Rhinos

Castleford's Denny Solomona celebrates his try.
Castleford's Denny Solomona celebrates his try.
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Castleford held off a tremendous fightback from First Utility Super League leaders Leeds to win 31-24 in a thriller at Headingley to climb into the top four.

The Rhinos had fought their way back from 18-0 down to tie the scores at 24-24 with 10 minutes to go but Liam Finn restored the Tigers’ lead with a drop-goal and winger Denny Solomona clinched a third successive win with his second try of the match.

Leeds opted for a short turnaround after playing their previous game on Sunday, while Castleford enjoyed an extra two days’ preparation - and the visitors finished the stronger side to secure their first win at Headingley for five years.

Castleford fans must have had a sense of deja vu after watching their side race into an 18-0 lead for the second successive week.

Prop forward Grant Millington set the ball rolling after seven minutes when he took a flat pass from Nathan Massey and showed neat footwork to step past full-back Liam Sutcliffe for the opening try.

A superb 40-20 kick from scrum-half Luke Gale then created the position for hooker Scott Moore to get stand-off Finn over and Leeds were still reeling when centre Michael Shenton knocked the ball from Carl Ablett’s grasp and picked it up to sprint 30 metres for an opportunist try on his 300th career appearance.

With Gale adding all three conversions, the visitors were looking good at 18-0 but veteran half-back Danny McGuire sparked the Rhinos’ spirited fightback.

Ablett made up for his earlier error by bouncing off the attempted tackle of Gale to open Leeds’ account on 26 minutes and, as they maintained the momentum, McGuire and centre Kallum Watkins were both held up over the line.

The pressure paid off when winger Ryan Hall accepted McGuire’s cut-out pass to cross at the corner to cut the deficit to eight points.

Castleford coach Daryl Powell’s response to the mounting crisis was to send on former Leeds favourite Ryan Bailey for his first appearance against his old club - and he instantly flattened scrum-half Rob Burrow with a thunderous tackle that appeared to be late.

Burrow quickly picked himself up, though, and the game was wide open two minutes before the break when ever-dangerous prop Adam Cuthbertson took a pass from hooker Paul Aiton and smashed through the two-man tackle of Junior Moors and Oliver Holmes to touch down.

Sutcliffe’s second goal meant there were just two points between the teams, just as there had been at one stage in Castleford’s game at Hull KR - and once again the Tigers were good enough to hang on to their advantage.

Shenton demonstrated his England class by drawing two defenders and sending Solomona over for his sixth try in his last three matches and Gale’s touchline conversion restored the Tigers’ eight-point advantage.

That was the signal for Leeds coach Brian McDermott to send on captain Kevin Sinfield and within two minutes his side scored again to set up a tense final quarter.

McGuire was once again the creator, pulling the Castleford defence out of position to give centre Jimmy Keinhorst the chance to force his way over for the Rhinos’ fourth try, which Sinfield goaled.

Sinfield then tied the scores with a penalty 10 minutes from the end but Finn slotted over a drop-goal and Solomona made sure of the win when he swooped on a handling error by winger Ash Handley to grab his second try.