WATCH - Leeds Rhinos 8 Castleford Tigers 30: Castleford Tigers run rings around "mentally battered" Leeds Rhinos

THERE WERE fireworks, flame-burners and even an operatic rendition of Land of Hope and Glory pre-game tonight but, unfortunately, the same old story on the pitch for dismal Leeds Rhinos.

Castleford's defence on top.
Castleford's defence on top.

For all the grandiose pomp and ceremony ahead of the opening of their splendid North Stand, the ailing eight-times Super League champions yet again could not deliver when it came to the rugby and the signs are increasingly worrying.

No one could suggest the sense of desperation and despair was as great as across the city 24 hours previously, when Leeds United suffered their agonising play-off exit against Derby County.

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However, it is no wonder fans at revamped Emerald Headingley are becoming increasingly concerned their illustrious club could be destined for a fraught battle against relegation.

Castleford's defence on top.

This was a fourth defeat in five games and with woeful Rhinos this morning sitting just two points above bottom-placed London Broncos, it was understandable why interim head coach Richard Agar and director of rugby Kevin Sinfield wore such bleak expressions last night.

Leeds - who lost Tonga full-back Tui Lolohea to a 10th minute injury - face London at Magic Weekend a week on Sunday; who would have guessed that would arguably be the most important contest of the events in Liverpool.

There had been plenty of soul-searching in the Rhinos camp following Saturday’s desperate defeat against part-timers Bradford Bulls in the Challenge Cup.

There was, at least, plenty of effort here, which Agar had demanded, but once again his side lacked cohesion and steel and too many players are not performing anywhere near the levels required.

Leeds Rhinos' Kallum Watkins (PIC: JOHNATHAN GAWTHORPE)

It was too easy for Castleford in the end, a side who had their own issues, having lost their previous four games.

They gained a sweet revenge having lost to Brad Dwyer’s dramatic Golden Point extra-time drop goal at the same ground less than two months previously.

Jake Trueman ran matters for them from half-back and Jesse Sene-Lefao came up with two important tries.

Rhinos were 12-2 down at the break with Castleford having had largely the better of the play.

Still, Agar’s side should have gone in trailing by just four but wasted a brilliant opportunity in the penultimate minute of the half.

Young centre Harry Newman made a quality break up the middle with Kallum Watkins in support.

All the England star had to do was find Matt Parcell on his shoulder - but the Australian hooker somehow over-ran his team-mate and the pass went to ground.

It was an almighty let-off for Castleford who had looked in control for the most part.

They had gone behind to a 15th minute Liam Sutcliffe penalty, the Leeds player having seen the ball stripped from him having made a scything incision of his own after being switched from second-row to No1.

However, the hosts have a nagging inability to defend their own line for any period of time.

It took Tigers just three minutes to respond. Richie Myler was offside picking up a loose ball after Leeds had spilled in their own 20 and, from there, Sene-Lefao did not need much vigour to twist through the England scrum-half in the next set.

Peter Mata’utia converted and when Sutcliffe dropped Trueman’s high kick soon after, Castleford were invited in again.

This time, at least, there was some resistance as Leeds managed to prevent further damage but they soon shot themselves in the foot once more.

Watkins put a fierce hit on Greg Eden but, in doing so, the Castleford player’s legs went above the horizontal and it was an automatic penalty.

Whether it was a yellow card as well is open to debate but, nowadays, it generally results in a sin-bin.

As Eden received treatment, Watkins was given 10 minutes by referee Chris Kendall despite his protestations.

Castleford quickly made the extra man count and, typically, it was Eden who profited.

Trueman was the architect with a long, cut-out pass but there was big question marks over Tom Briscoe’s positioning as the Leeds winger was left in No Man’s Land.

It was Eden’s 100th Super League try and a perfect way to respond having been dropped the previous week at Hull FC due to an error-ridden display against Warrington.

Most importantly, though, the 28-year-old cut out those irritating mistakes that had left head coach Daryl Powell so frustrated.

If only Leeds could learn to do likewise.

From Trueman's pass, Sene-Lefao got his second try in the 45th minute after almost walking past a static Watkins, who looked a pale shadow of the player who came so close to gaining England success in the 2017 World Cup final.

Parcell did respond with a try but once Trent Merrin was penalised for dissent - criminally when in possession - the writing was on the wall for Rhinos.

James Clare scored in the next set from fit-again Jordan Rankin's kick and then Trueman got in on the act himself following Eden’s break, Mata’utia finishing with five goals from as many attempts.

Castleford moved up to third and may fancy their chances against leaders St Helens at Magic.

Leeds Rhinos: Lolohea; Briscoe, New,an, Watkins, Handley; McLelland, Myler; Peteru, Dwyer, Singleton, Smith, Sutcliffe, Merrin. Substitutes: Oledzki, Parcell, Donaldson, Seumanufagai.

Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia; Clare, Minikin, Blair, Eden; Trueman, Aston; Watts, McShane, Millington, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey. Substitutes: Milner, Cook, Clark, Rankin.

Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)