In their first match since Gale suffered an Achilles injury that is likely to keep him out of action for the entire season, Castleford scored six tries to Leeds’s five and were 18-4 ahead after half an hour.
New signing Jordan Rankin took over kicking duties from Gale, but managed only one conversion, to Michael Shenton’s opening touchdown.
James Clare crossed twice for the visitors and their other try scorers were Junior Moors, Alex Foster, in his comeback from an injury suffered last June, and Paul McShane.
“Ultimately we had to do a lot of scrambling in the second half because we couldn’t really keep hold of the ball,” said Tigers’ coach Daryl Powell.
“We had limited ball in the second half and we made too many errors.
“Leeds put us under a lot of pressure, but I thought we showed a lot of toughness – we had to dig deep to win the game.
“In the first half I thought we were outstanding.
“We created a lot of opportunities, our attacking play was pretty slick, but the try just before half-time brought Leeds back into it a bit. In the second half we made too many errors, but I thought there were some really promising signs.”
Watkins had not played since suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage in May, but scored Rhinos’ opening try and came through a 59-minute stint unscathed.
Marquee signing Konrad Hurrell created two tries for his winger Ash Handley and Adam Cuthbertson and Harry Newman also crossed for Leeds with Tui Lolohea landing two conversions.
“He got some game time and when he scored that try that was the Kallum of old,” new coach Dave Furner said of his Rhinos’ captain. “There’s a lot of pleasing things to take out of it and I’ve said that to the players.
“It was a trial game and we wanted to put a performance on and we wanted to win for Kallum, but we will certainly take some learning from it.
“We had some opportunities at the end of the game and we had a really good second half I thought.”
A young Huddersfield Giants team were beaten 50-12 at Workington Town yesterday and Wakefield Trinity also fielded a second-string side in their 16-6 loss at another League One club, Newcastle Thunder, on Saturday.
Hull KR condemned former Leeds coach Brian McDermott to defeat in his first game in charge of Toronto Wolfpack. Ryan Shaw touched down twice as Toronto were beaten 24-14 in Shaun Lunt’s testimonial game. Danny Addy, Joel Tomkins and Jimmy Keinhorst were Rovers’ other try scorers.
Hull FC were beaten 28-18 at St Helens despite tries by Carlos Tuimavave, Jamie Shaul and Bureta Faraimo.