Harris holds sway in triumph of style over toil

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The Independent Online

Leeds ended Castleford's season by knocking them out of the Super League play-offs, but this was a game that reflected as much credit on the losers as the winners. If a depleted Cas showed exemplary determination, though, it was the extra class of opposition led in typical style by Iestyn Harris that proved just a little too much for them in the end.

Leeds ended Castleford's season by knocking them out of the Super League play-offs, but this was a game that reflected as much credit on the losers as the winners. If a depleted Cas showed exemplary determination, though, it was the extra class of opposition led in typical style by Iestyn Harris that proved just a little too much for them in the end.

With Aaron Raper injured and two players, Brad Davis and Andrew Purcell, in key positions despite knowing that they are not being retained next year, the Castleford side did not quite have the solid, settled look you would want for a fixture like this.

It is one of the clichés of the game that Cas invariably lift themselves against Leeds, however, and they started like a team with tremendous self- belief. After four minutes they took the lead, keeping the ball alive on the last tackle for Danny Orr to angle a lovely kick through the Leeds defence. Davis timed his run perfectly.

Orr added the goal, but Leeds equalised with a converted try that owed a good deal to the sun dipping low over Headingley. Michael Eagar lost sight of Harris' high kick and could only help it on to Kevin Sinfield, who sent Paul Sterling away.

Sinfield, one of the brightest young talents in the game and a potentially important member of England's World Cup squad, scored the try that put Leeds ahead, supporting Harris' break down the right and taking his inside pass to leave his captain an easy kick.

That kick remained the difference between two evenly matched sides at the end of a compelling first half. Cas scored a beautifully-worked try when Davis' kick picked out Jon Wells on the right wing, but Orr could not land the difficult conversion, nor a 40-yard penalty before the break, while Darren Rogers was twice forced into touch when he threatened on the left.

Although Leeds had given them a couple of scares after the break, Castleford took the lead with a try out of nothing. Orr saw the chance to improvise a kick into the arms of Wells and, although he was caught by Graham Mackay, he managed to slip the ball away for Barrie-Jon Mather.

The lead lasted just six minutes. Ryan Sheridan spotted a gap in the defence and Harris put over the goal for good measure. Cas were not getting the rub of the green by this stage. Adrian Vowles was adjudged to have lost the ball rather than having it stolen from him, Mather narrowly failed to take an interception, and Keith Senior claimed the try that finally made Leeds secure. Michael Eagar had a try disallowed for a double movement and Wayne Pryce failed to take Purcell's pass as Cas attacked with increasing desperation.

Leeds: Cummins; Stirling, Blackmore, Senior, Pratt; Harris, Sheridan; Fleary, Jackson, McDermott, Morley, Sinfield, Hay. Substitutes used: Powell, Mackay, Mathiou, Farrell.

Castleford: Gay; Wells, Mather, Eagar, Rogers; Orr, Davis; Lynch, Purcell, Sampson, Harland, Shaw, Vowles. Substitutes used: Flowers, Tonks, Smith, Pryce.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

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