Rhinos’ pack was as strong as it could be, but they were without eight backs who would probably have featured if available.
Centre Corey Hall, aged 18 was drafted in to make his full debut, after two substitute appearances last year and it was fourth-choice full-back Jack Broadbent’s fourth Super League game.
Clearly, Leeds’ management would prefer not to throw so many youngsters – their other centre Alex Sutcliffe was in only his 13th senior game – in at once, but they think highly of them and a much stronger Castleford team had to dig deep.
Castleford led 12-0 early on were eight points ahead at the break, but endured some anxious moments after Leeds cut the gap to just two with a quarter of the game remaining.
Castleford, though, proved too strong in the end and it was a creditable effort from them considering they were on a five-day turnaround from their round one win over Warrington Wolves, even if the 18-10 scoreline was closer than might have been expected before the match.
Tigers’ defence on their own line, under heavy pressure at times, was particularly impressive, but coach Daryl Powell will not have been happy with some of the errors and set restarts which let Leeds off the hook at times.
Twice Leeds players got across the whitewash without being able to get the ball down, which underlined Tigers’ commitment.
Oliver Holmes was their outstanding player, continuing a strong start to the season. Smart footwork close to the line took him over for his second try in successive games after 12 minutes.
Niall Evalds, the England Knights full-back signed from Salford Red Devils, is quickly proving a high-quality addition for Castleford and his combination with Jake Trueman shows huge promise.
Evalds followed Holmes’s lead with his second try in two matches, after 24 minutes. The try was created by stand-off Trueman whose lovely pass put Cheyse Blair into space and he drew the full-back before sending Evalds over.
At 12-0 down, Leeds were in danger of being overrun, but they steadied the ship and got back in the contest 11 minutes before the interval through Luke Briscoe, who finished superbly at the corner off a fine long pass by Broadbent.
Video assistant Ben Thaler overruled referee Liam Moore to disallow a touchdown by Derrell Olpherts late in the half and in the next set Evalds proved his defensive prowess with an outstanding tackle to halt Leeds’s big number 13 Zane Tetevano.
Rhinos cut the gap to two points with 19 minutes left after a nip and tuck third quarter.
Kruise Leeming returned for a second stint at acting-half and his scoot on the last caught Tigers’ defence napping before he slipped the ball out to Matt Prior who stretched over for a try which Rhyse Martin improved.
Leeds scrambled very well in defence, but with nine minutes left Trueman and Evalds linked to find Jordan Turner and he added to his round one brace with the game-breaking try, Danny Richardson landing his third goal to complete the scoring.
Richie Myler was the latest Leeds player to be ruled out and faces three weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. New signing Kyle Eastmond was again left out, but could make his debut in next Saturday’s Challenge Cup against his previous league club, St Helens.
Leeds Rhinos: Broadbent, T Briscoe, Hall, A Sutcliffe, L Briscoe, L Sutcliffe, Gale, Oledzki, Leeming, Prior, Mellor, Martin, Tetevano. Substitutes: Dwyer, Thompson, Donaldson, C Smith.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Turner, Trueman, Richardson, Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Blair, Massey. Substitutes: Milner, Hepi, Sene-Lefao, D Smith.
Referee: L Moore (Wigan).
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