Castleford Tigers’ Liam Finn opted for his little-used left boot to deliver the point that finally secured Daryl Powell a win against his former club Leeds Rhinos.
Powell, who left his role as head coach at Headingley in 2003, has taken a circuitous route back to Super League where he established himself again last season as the competition’s coach of the year.
Victory over his old employers had always eluded him, however, but it came last night at the sixth attempt as, in an epic West Yorkshire derby, Castleford edged out the leaders in thrilling fashion.
It was fitting that Finn should apply the coup de grace after the Tigers had let an 18-0 lead slip to be level 24-24 before his 73rd-minute effort.
The Ireland scrum-half was only given his own big chance back in Super League at the age of 30 last year – after following Powell from Championship club Featherstone Rovers into the elite.
Denny Solomona added his second try soon after when luckless winger Ash Handley dropped Luke Gale’s long kick on his own line, Gale slotting his fifth conversion to secure the visitors’ first win at Headingley since 2010 and move them up to fourth.
They had stormed into that 18-0 lead after just 15 minutes but their long-suffering fans know that does not automatically signal victory.
Far from it. They had done the same last week at Hull KR – and then had to dog their way to a win.
Nevertheless, Powell’s side were superb in that spell last night even taking into account Leeds’s own slackness.
After Paul Aiton threw a forward pass from dummy-half, a lovely flat delivery from Castleford loose forward Nathan Massey saw pack colleague Grant Millington surge through a gap and then through Liam Sutcliffe, the stand-off acting as a makeshift full-back for a second game running due to Zak Hardaker’s injury.
In the next set, the excellent Gale’s 40/20 caused more problems for the youngster who could only help the ball into touch.
Still, Castleford should not have scored. Scott Moore’s pass from dummy-half went behind Finn who had to halt his run 10m out to take delivery. Yet Leeds’s defence was so static that the scrum-half still managed to barge over.
Their third try was all down to Michael Shenton’s opportunism; the centre cheekily wreathed possession from Carl Ablett as his England colleague tried making ground down the blindside 35m from his own line.
The Castleford centre picked up the spoils and suddenly found no one near him as he sprinted to the line, Gale adding his third conversion.
It was inevitable Leeds – who had dropped what little possession they had too frequently and kicked poorly – would eventually gain some sort of fluency.
And they finally got back into the contest when Ablett shrugged off Gale close to the line in the 26th minute, Sutcliffe converting.
Aided by a penalty count fully in their favour – it was 5-0 by the break – Castleford creaked again five minutes later, this time down to a fine Danny McGuire pass, which put Ryan Hall over in the corner to leave them trailing 18-10.
Castleford needed some calm so it must have been a hard decision for Powell to, at this point, introduce Ryan Bailey, the former Leeds prop making his first return to Headingley after 12 years’ service.
As good as he can be, he is also a volatile sort and, allied to the unpredictability of referee James Child, you could sense he would be sent off before the break.
He was not – the 30-year-old fared well – but his old colleagues did score again when Adam Cuthbertson twisted over between the posts for Sutcliffe to leave that margin at just two.
However, Castleford returned in the second period re-energised, enabling Gale to find Shenton in the 46th minute who supplied Solomona.
Kevin Sinfield came off the bench to try to get Leeds out of trouble, bringing some steadiness at nine, and, not long after, his side did respond again.
Castleford will be disappointed it came direct from a scrum 10m out as McGuire crabbed across before ushering Jimmy Keinhorst over on a decent angle, Sinfield taking on kicking duties successfully.
Shenton denied McGuire with a crucial tackle before Solomona handed more possession over by somehow conceding a cheap drop-out 20m from his own line.
Their defence was solid, however, so it was no surprise when Sinfield opted to kick a penalty in the 71st minute to level.
However, it was Finn who then held his own nerve before Solomona’s second try sealed a famous win.
Leeds: Sutcliffe, Handley, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Singleton, Aiton, Peacock, S. Ward, Ablett, Cuthbertson. Substitutes: Leuluai, Sinfield, Walters, Yates.
Castleford: Roberts, Gibson, Webster, Shenton, Solomona, Finn, Gale, Lynch, B. Moore, Millington, O. Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Substitutes: Milner, Boyle, Moors, Bailey.
Referee: J Child (RFL).