Rugby League: Hanley capitalises on Tait's slick initiative

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Castleford. . .12

Leeds. . . . . 21

LEEDS made an ideal start to the season at Wheldon Road last night effectively beating a ragged Castleford with three tries within nine minutes during the first half, writes Dave Hadfield.

Their captain, Ellery Hanley, who was only passed fit shortly before the kick-off scored twice to emphasise the benefits of a summer's rest. The crucial contribution, however, came from Alan Tait, who set up both those tries with dazzling breaks.

The breakthrough try came immediately after Castleford had squandered a gilt-edged opportunity. Leeds made the most of an escape by going to the other end of the field and Tait's run from Ian Scott's pass sent Hanley in unopposed.

Leeds' second try in the 12th minute was created by Garry Schofield's pass and the strength of Craig Innes. Tait's surging run down the wing brought the third, Hanley again supporting expertly and then adding an unusual drop goal.

Castleford were limited to a Lee Crooks penalty in the first half but were encouraged after the break when Schofield was sent to the sin bin.

St John Ellis sparked hopes of a comeback when he kicked ahead three times and beat Tait to an awkward bouncing ball for a try which Crooks improved.

Castleford had some more glimmers of opportunity but their cause was not helped by the loss of Grant Anderson for 10 minutes following a high tackle.

With six minutes to go, Graham Holroyd made the victory secure for Leeds, charging down Crooks' kick and showing exceptional control by booting ahead and dribbling over to score.

Anderson's last-minute try was an irrelevance. Leeds could feel satisfied both with the form of their established players and with the contribution of their less-illustrious debutants, Scott and the impressive 19-year-old Matt Schultz.

Castleford: Steadman; Ellis, Middleton, Anderson, Wray; Smith, Ford; Crooks (Sampson, 77), Russell, Sampson (Ketteridge, 45), Morrison (Fisher, 69), Smales, Nikau.

Leeds: Tait; Fallon, Iro, Innes, Irving; Schofield, Gregory (Holroyd, 65); Harmon (Parrish, 51), Lowes, Scott, Mercer, Schultz, Hanley.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).