Castleford storm back

Rugby League Halifax 30 Castleford 34
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The Independent Online
Rugby League

DAVE HADFIELD

Halifax 30 Castleford 34

Castleford recovered superbly from an apparently hopeless 18-point deficit on the half-hour to inflict a third successive defeat on a Halifax side that assumed too early that they had this match won.

In a game of constant ebb and flow, it was Castleford who showed the staying power to outlast opponents who looked likely to run away with the contest in the first half.

A thin crowd at Thrum Hall showed that Super League still has some way to go to win hearts and minds in these parts, but they soon saw as well a constructed a try as there will be all summer.

It began with Graeme Hallas fielding Frano Botica's kick 10 yards from his own line, and ended with Martin Moana touching down with four players, including Moana himself, handling in the meantime.

Castleford's reply was not that far inferior, a five-man move ending with Tony Smith crossing and Botica landing the equalising conversion.

Moana then restored Halifax's lead with his second touchdown, a more prosaic effort taking advantage of some slack Castleford defence.

A feeling that Castleford were thoroughly vulnerable in their own quarter intensified when Wayne Parker's dash down the blindside opened the way to the try line for Mike Umaga.

Parker, a wily scrum-half slotting in effectively at loose forward, exposed Castleford again, setting up Craig Dean for Halifax's fourth try. But a game of frail defence and flowing attack continued its merry way, with Castleford responding with tries from Richard Goddard and Ian Smales before half time.

A half of seven tries and seven conversions left Castleford six points in arrears, a margin they cut to two when Smales plucked Tony Smith's kick out of Dean's arms. A John Schuster penalty, his fifth successful kick, edged Halifax further ahead, but a lead of four points in this match was nothing, as Jason Flowers demonstrated by going over for Castleford. Goddard's kick gave them the lead for the first time.

Brendon Tuuta's close-range effort consolidated that lead, but Paul Anderson, also with the aid of the video replay, hit back for Halifax.

Castleford, lasting the pace better than the home side, hung on for a second victory in their first three Super League games - a better start than almost anyone expected from them and testimony to their resilience.

The Halifax coach, Steve Simms, said after his side's first two defeats that it was not yet time to panic. Perhaps it now is, because the decline from last winter's form is rapidly becoming alarming.

Halifax: Umaga; Hallas, Schuster, Tuilagi, Ekoku; Moana, Dean; Harrison, Southernwood, W Jackson, Moriarty, M Jackson, Parker. Substitutes: P Anderson, Amone, Gillespie. Substitute not used: Briggs.

Castleford: J Flowers; C Smith, G Anderson, Flynn, Edwards; Botica, T Smith; Sampson, Maskill, Sykes, Schick, Harland, Tuuta. Substitutes: Goddard, Smales, S Flowers. Substitute not used: Gay.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).

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