Halifax 19 Castleford 10
Halifax, with their World Cup candidates showing rather more convincing form than Castleford's, always had the better of an error-strewn and penalty littered match at Thrum Hall last night.
Halifax, with the Western Samoan captain John Schuster still missing because of injury, failed to accept a couple of early penalty opportunities. They were so dominating possession, however, that points were bound to come - as they did when John Bentley's lofted pass and some weak tackling allowed Carl Gillespie to score on the right-wing.
Carl Briggs increased the lead with a drop goal before Karl Harrison, the prospective English open side prop at Wembley next Saturday, limbered up with the softest of tries, taking a pass from Roy Southernwood to lunge over and leave Mike Umaga to kick Halifax's first goal. An offside penalty allowed Richard Goddard to register Castleford's first points, but these were soon cancelled out by a mystifying decision which gave Umaga his second successful shot at goal.
A first half of many penalties yielded another two points for Goddard, but Halifax rubbed in their superiority before the break with Harrison, Mark Pellett and Asa Amone linking up to put Wayne Parker through to score.
Although Goddard's boot brought them the first points of the second half, Castleford's chances of staging a recovery seemed remote when Brendon Tuuta was sent to the sin-bin for dissent. But no sooner had he gone than another England candidate, Tony Smith, produced a well-measured kick towards the corner for his namesake, Chris, whose electric burst of pace took him to the ball first to score.
That was as close as Castleford were able to get. With their rival to Harrison for a place in the England pack, Dean Sampson, making little impression, they could not rouse themselves for a big finish.
Halifax: Umaga; Bentley, Amone, Highton, Ekoku; Briggs, Parker; Harrison, Southernwood, Fieldhouse (Ketteridge, 61), Moriarty (Perrett, 59), Gillespie, Baldwin (Dean, 68).
Castleford: J Flowers; C Smith, Goddard, Steadman, Marchant; T Smith, Stephens; Sampson, Darley, Sykes (Schick, 54), Harland (Smales, 61), Tuuta, Nikau.
Referee: A Bates (Cumbria).