Castleford. . .8
THE power and try-scoring ability which persuaded Leeds to sign Jim Fallon on a five-year contract last summer has been a relatively well-kept secret during his first six months in rugby league.
The former Bath and England B rugby union winger went a long way towards justifying his signing yesterday with the two tries which proved the difference between two fiercely committed sides in a compelling Silk Cut Challenge Cup quarter-final.
The tries bore a striking similarity. Both were from well-judged passes by Paul Dixon, Leeds' other outstanding player, and both were, in the end, attributable to the 15st 5lb Fallon's physical superiority over the men trying to stop him.
Leeds were 2-0 up from a Simon Irving penalty when Fallon was offered and eagerly accepted his first chance. It began with Ellery Hanley embarking on one of his familiar curving runs, all stepping off the left foot and fending with the left hand, and continued when Dixon did admirably to take a difficult pass.
Dixon then had the vision to pick out Fallon on the right wing with a lofted pass and he went right through the attempted tackles of David Nelson and Graham Steadman to score in the corner.
Fallon's second, just before the hour, was even more directly traceable to his strength. Alan Tait made the running, Dixon cropped up again among the centres and Fallon took the pass 10 yards out. Nelson made his tackle but was carried along on Fallon's back and even when the two of them crashed down just before the line Fallon was able to roll over, stretch out his arm and claim the touchdown.
'I just put my head down and hoped for the best for both the tries,' Fallon said. He now hopes to bring up a personal double by playing in the Challenge Cup final for Leeds the year after playing in the Pilkington Cup final for Bath against Harlequins. 'From that sort of range going for the line is all you can do.'
In this decisive form, Fallon can make a big contribution to Leeds' prospects, and it was a relief to his coach, Doug Laughton, to see him make such a crucial impact.
'We've been on at him all week to get more involved,' he said. 'He's such a laid-back character that he sometimes needs a rocket up his behind.'
Fallon's contribution apart, Castleford were at least Leeds' equals in a classic cup tie. They went close to opening the try-scoring three times before Fallon's first, and one of those efforts, from St John Ellis, looked perilously close even on action-replay.
Peter Coyne, who later went off with concussion, made a break after that try which should have brought an equaliser. Castleford did get on level terms just before half-time thanks to a magnificent try. Dean Sampson and Tawera Nikau made inroads, and Graham Southernwood switched play for Nikau to slip a superb pass to put Mike Ford in.
After the break Castleford had to battle against the wind, flurries of snow and 20 minutes of almost incessant Leeds pressure before they finally cracked.
They had their chances to get back on terms in the last quarter, but saw a Crooks kick scrambled clear by Kevin Iro and then dropped vital passes. Castleford did narrow the gap with a penalty after Gary Mercer had tackled Crooks high, but that was as close as they could get. The key to reaching Wembley, as Laughton admitted, is to avoid Wigan in tomorrow's semi-final draw.
Leeds: A Tait; J Fallon, K Iro, C Innes, S Irving; G Schofield, A Gregory; S Molloy, J Lowes, M O'Neill (P Anderson, 32 min; Dixon, 75 min), P Dixon (A Goodway, 66 min), G Mercer, E Hanley. Coach: D Laughton.
Castleford: G Steadman; St J Ellis, T Smith, G Anderson, D Nelson; P Coyne (P Fletcher, 38 min), M Ford; L Crooks, G Southernwood, D Sampson, T Morrison (K England, 61 min), A Fisher, T Nikau. Coach: D Van De Velde.
Referee: I Ollerton (Wigan).
Scores: Irving (pen, 12 min, 2-0); Fallon (try, 24 min 6-0); Ford / Crooks (try / goal, 39 min 6-6); Fallon / Irving (try / goal, 59 min, 12-6); Crooks (pen, 65 min, 12-8).Reuse content