Rugby League: Sailor sparks Leeds revival

Leeds 26 Halifax 21
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A FIGHTBACK triggered by a memorable try from Wendel Sailor saw Leeds snatch an unlikely victory with which to launch 1999 at Headingley yesterday.

Castleford were 21-4 ahead and on their way to a morale-boosting win when, 16 minutes into the second half, the Brisbane Broncos and Australia wing playing the second of his holiday games for his adopted club, fielded a kick deep in his own half.

His strength took him through a congested midfield and then his pace saw him beat the defence to the corner flag.

"I haven't been playing well," said Sailor, who lost the ball for one of Castleford's tries. "I just needed a really good run and when I beat the first defender and saw some space in front of me I just pinned back my ears."

It was not just the try, but its spectacular nature, that lifted Leeds. "I don't think there's many players in the world who could score a try like that," said Iestyn Harris, the Leeds captain. "It shows his class if he can make something out of nothing and it really sparked our comeback."

Harris, although off-form with his goal-kicking, also played a major role in the rescue act. Both he and the young second-rower, Gareth Carvell, kept the ball alive for Adam Hughes to go in for the first of his two tries and Harris himself then got around the outside of the defence for the four points that brought Leeds within range.

Switched to stand-off for the final quarter, Harris also provided the long pass that skimmed Darren Rogers's fingertips but put Hughes in the clear. He could not land the conversion, but with four minutes remaining, he put over the penalty, awarded against Lee Harland for stealing the ball, that gave Leeds the lead for the first time.

In injury time, Ryan Sheridan, another major contributor to Leeds's fightback, found a gap and the home side, for all their early problems, were safe.

"I'm not down-hearted, because for 60 minutes we were the better side and a lot of good things cam out of it," said Castleford's acting coach, Graham Steadman.

His side were certainly in command during the first half, with Dean Sampson leading from the front and the former Leeds player, Francis Maloney, orchestrating the back-line impressively.

It was Sampson who scored the first try, driving over after only two minutes, and he was also involved in the build-up when Danny Orr's pass sent Ian Tonks over midway through the half.

Kevin Sinfield, just 18-years-old, pulled one back for Leeds, showing that he already knows exactly how to run on to Harris's passes, and Leeds could feel relieved to be only six points behind at the break.

Castleford's new signing, Mike Eagar, and Maloney did the lead up work for Gael Tallec to score early in the second half and Maloney added a drop goal and then supplied the pass that enabled, Rogers, another Castleford newcomer to score.

Everything was set up for Castleford to claim a result that they always enjoy, no matter what the nature of the game.

"We have kept Sailor pretty quiet, but you only need one chance when you've got players of that quality and he came up trumps for them," Steadman said.

Leeds: Harris; Sailor, Hughes, Godden, Cummins; Pratt, Sheridan; Field, Jackson, McDermott, Carvell, Glanville, Sinfield. Substitutes used: Lawford, Golden, Chapman, Wainwright, Jones, Ward.

Castleford: Flowers; Gay, Wells, Eagar, Rogers; Maloney, Orr; Sampson, Dobson, Sykes, Hill, Tonks, Harland. Substitutes used: Ellis, Riley, Tallec, Lynch.

Referee: N Oddy (Leeds).

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