Castleford. . . 12
CASTLEFORD'S status as a championship threat to Wigan was left in tatters by a Leeds side finally awakened to its own potential. It is too late for Leeds to make a title bid, but the players who have failed to blend so often this season showed yesterday that they can be the most expensively assembled and highly paid nuisances in the game.
There were outstanding performances from a number of those sometimes ill-assorted individuals, but the most significant came from Garry Schofield, whose exquisite passes set up four Leeds tries before he went over for one of his own in injury time.
It was not a bad contribution from a player who may yet take his club to court over their insistence that he will not play in Australia this summer. If this is what litigation does for him, Leeds should leave legal aid forms lying around for the whole team.
Yet Castleford, with a run of eight wins behind them, started as though destined to make it nine. A Lee Crooks penalty and a controversial try awarded to Mike Ford, after Leeds thought they had touched down his threatening kick, gave them a 6-0 lead.
The qualities that had brought Castleford into second place in the table - the ability of their key forwards to get the killing pass away and audacious switches of play from half-back - promised more points to come.
But a brilliant riposte from two of Leeds' other stars on the day changed the course of the match. Alan Tait ran a kick back from his own try-line and James Lowes took his lobbed pass to complete a 100- yard score. And before half-time, Schofield sent Kevin Iro through an over-stretched defence.
Tait stormed on to Schofield's ball a minute after the break. Schofield and the substitute, Simon Irving, sent in Ellery Hanley. After Castleford suffered the additional ignominy of having Ellis sent off for a flurry of punches that bloodied Steve Molloy's face, Schofield again opened up the defence, this time for Craig Innes.
Even after Dean Sampson went over from close range, Leeds still had time for a final flourish from Jim Fallon and Schofield, who, on this form, would be very much Australia's loss.
Leeds: A Tait; J Fallon, K Iro, C Innes, C Gibson (S Irving, 16 min); G Schofield, A Gregory; S Molloy (O'Neill, 62 min), J Lowes, M O'Neill (P Anderson, 61 min), P Dixon, G Mercer, E Hanley. Coach: D Laughton.
Castleford: G Anderson; St J Ellis, R Blackmore, T Smith, J Wray; P Coyne, M Ford (D Nelson, 55 min); L Crooks, C Watson, D Sampson (K England, 77 min), T Morrison, M Ketteridge, T Nikau. Coach: D Van de Velde.
Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).
Scores: Crooks (pen, 3 min, 0-2); Ford (try, 25 min, 0-6); Lowes/Schofield (try/goal, 28 min,
6-6); Iro (try, 35 min, 10-6); Tait/Irving (try/goal, 41 min, 16-6); Irving (pen, 48 min, 18-6); Hanley/ Irving (try/goal, 51 min, 24-6); Irving (pen, 63 min, 26-6); Innes/Irving (try/goal, 67 min, 32-6); Sampson/Crooks (try/goal, 75 min, 32-12); Fallon (try, 79 min, 36-12); Schofield (try, 80 min, 40-12).