THE KICKING of one of their young stars, Graham Holroyd, extended Leeds' winning run to four games in a tryless, frequently untidy but ultimately absorbing clash at Headingley last night.
Leeds caused a surprise by leaving their new signing, Harvey Howard, on the bench at the start, but their forwards still began in purposeful vein.
The strong running of Gary Mercer and Ellery Hanley in particular forced Castleford to back-pedal and, early on, Richie Eyres was stopped a yard from the try-line by Graham Steadman.
Castleford, apparently suffering a hangover from their Regal Trophy semi-final victory on Saturday, could be relieved at only conceding four early points, the result of two penalties awarded against Tawera Nikau and capitalised upon by Holroyd.
Leeds edged further in front when Steadman obstructed Kevin Iro as he pursued his own kick, but Howard marked his debut by conceding a penalty for a foul on Martin Ketteridge from which Crooks put Castleford on the board.
Another penalty, this time for Hanley holding down Nikau, brought Castleford closer after the break. Encouraged by this, Castleford produced their best so far, only a wayward final pass from Grant Anderson to Mike Ford spoiling an excellent attack.
Leeds were struggling in contrast to their first-half domination and only a marginal forward pass decision saved them when Crooks got the ball once more to Smith.
It was Leeds' turn to go close when Eyres was bundled into touch by weight of numbers just short of the corner flag.
Three minutes from time a foul by Ketteridge on Eyres in front of the posts gave Holroyd a fourth penalty. Howard's clash with Crooks as time ran out gave Castleford the chance to take a tap penalty and go for the try that had eluded both sides, but Leeds held out.
Leeds: Tait, Fallon, Iro (Vassilakopoulos, 49), Irving, Cummins, Holroyd, Stephens, Harmon (Mercer, 77) Lowes, O'Neill (Howard, 26), Mercer (O'Neill, 46), Eyres, Hanley.
Castleford: Steadman, Ellis, Smith, Anderson, Middleton, Kemp, Ford, Crooks, Russell (Nelson, 48), Ketteridge, Hay, Smales (Sampson, h/t), Nickau.
Referee: I Ollerton (Wigan).
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