A penalty four minutes into Golden Point extra-time from their ace deadlock-breaker, Kevin Sinfield, took Leeds to Wembley after Castleford almost chased them out of the Challenge Cup.
Rangi Chase – The Man Who Wasn't There – scored a try worthy of winning any semi-final and could have decided it with a late drop-goal, but in the end it was the cool nerve of Sinfield that made the difference and decided the outcome.
He got his chance when Ryan McGoldrick was penalised for what was judged to be a high tackle on Danny McGuire – a decision that the Cas coach, Terry Matterson, hotly disputed. "It was on the shoulder and to have your team knocked out like that isn't good enough," he said. "The big teams always seem to get the roll of the dice."
Leeds' Brian McDermott had "no qualms" about the penalty and few at the Keepmoat Stadium expected his captain to miss the goal.
"It was just like being on the training ground at Kirkstall," Sinfield said. "That's why you spend those extra hours practising."
The fashion this semi-final weekend has been for long waits for the first try. We waited in vain for all the first half of this one, although it said something about the balance of play that the first four chances went to Leeds.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan was denied for a forward pass, Danny Buderus was thrown back over the try-line and, closest of all, McGoldrick plucked the ball out of Ryan Bailey's grasp as he was planting it down. Finally, Danny McGuire had a pass to Carl Ablett that was ruled forward.
In the middle of that lot, the Rhinos did take the lead with Kevin Sinfield's penalty, but just before half-time Cas thought they had wiped that out when Stuart Jones was held up just short.
The game opened up dramatically after the break and predictably it was Chase, a player Cas let the world think was on his way to Australia and would miss the match, who was at the centre of the action.
First, his outside-of-the-foot kick almost allowed Ben Jones-Bishop to go the length of the field. Then he found a gap to do something similar himself, this time finishing by touching down in the corner after throwing a series of dummies.
Kirk Dixon missed the conversion, but added a penalty for offside. When he landed another 10 minutes from time, it looked as though Cas were on their way back to Wembley for the first time since 1992.
But a forward pass from Ben Davies conceded precious possession and Kallum Watkins scored from Weller Hauraki's back-flipped pass.
Danny Orr charged down Sinfield's drop-goal attempt, before Chase had his chance in the last minute. This week, he will be making his delayed court appearance and wondering what might have been. "I couldn't have been prouder of them if we had been going to Wembley," said Matterson. "They were outstanding."
But so, when it really counted, were Leeds and Sinfield.
Castleford: McGoldrick; Dixon, Youngquest, Arundel, Owen; Chase, Orr; Jackson, Milner, Parker, Ferres, Jones, Aspinwall. Substitutes used: Hudson, Isa, Thompson, Davies.
Leeds: Webb; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Ablett, Hall; Sinfield, Burrow; Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Clarkson. Substitutes used: McGuire, Bailey, Kirke, Hauraki.
Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).Reuse content