Last season's runners-up are still a long way short of the standard displayed by the current title contenders, Wigan and St Helens, on Friday. But at least this match saw them willing to fight and graft for the points, something which has not always been the case this season. This eventually outweighed their technical short-comings.
For most of the first half, it seemed as though a crowd reduced by events at Wembley as well as by Leeds's dismal recent form were in for another gloomy evening. Castleford, their confidence boosted by last week's impressive win over Bradford, were always the sharper side and proved adept at punishing some dreadful Leeds handling mistakes.
One particularly glaring example, Dean Clark's low pass to Tony Kemp from the scrum, gave Castleford the possession that produced their first try when a kick-through from Lee Crooks was followed up and touched down by Adrian Flynn. Francis Cummins was the next obvious culprit, losing the ball in the tackle to enable Castleford to pile on the pressure that yielded their second try.
Leeds seemed to have defended the situation successfully until Frano Botica ran the ball diagonally and David Chapman went straight through flailing attempts at a tackle by Kemp and Esene Faimalo.
With Botica's inevitable pair of goals adding to the damage, Castleford were in a position of some comfort until, immediately before half-time, Barrie McDermott crashed on to Kemp's pass for a much-needed try which, with Graham Holroyd's goal, halved the lead. That, along with the introduction of the slippery Mick Shaw at hooker, proved a turning point for Leeds.
They were able to dominate the early stages of the second half territorially, and eventually received their reward with tries from Carl Hall and Gary Mercer which took them into a four-point lead.
The best and most exciting phase of the game saw Adrian Morley's tackle deny Botica a try, and Cummins kicked down the length of the field to almost score at the other end before Castleford regained the lead. Tony Smith, making his return to the side, was caught by Phil Hassan after an electrifying burst through the middle. On the next tackle, Jason Flowers charged through a defence that had still regrouped and Botica added the goal from the touchline.
In some of their less-resolute moves of this season, that would have been enough to deflate Leeds. But Holroyd's penalty brought them level after Dean Sampson had not played the ball properly and, with 10 minutes to go, Shaw's break, continued by Kemp and Alan Tait, gave Marvin Golden the chance to pull free of Chapman's tackle and go over. Holroyd's conversion and a drop goal completed the escape as the dwindling Headingley faithful heaved a collective sigh of relief.
Leeds: Holroyd; Golden, Cummins, Hall, Hassan; Kemp, Clark; McDermott, Newton, Faimalo, Mann, Morley, Hulme. Subs used: Tait, Shaw, Mercer, Fozzard.
Castleford: Flowers; C Smith, Chapman, Flynn, Edwards; Anderson, Botica; Crooks, Maskill, Sykes, Paramore, Shick, Tuuta. Subs used: T Smith, Sampson, Tonks.
Referee: B Harrigan (Australia).Reuse content