There was only one paper winner of tonight's game between table-topping Castleford Tigers and basement dwelling Huddersfield Giants.
But the Tigers were without the services of Luke Gale, Mike McMeeken and the inspirational Zak Hardaker who were both on England duty for the Pacific Test match against Samoa on Saturday morning. The Giants were without Jermaine McGillvary for the same reasons.
The Tigers were the favourites with the bookies but after the Giants confidence boosting win over the Rhinos last weekend and the loss of two key playmakers for the Tigers, there was everything to play for.
Joel Monaghan opened the nights scoring when he walked past Gene Ormsby to ground by the left corner flag after a Danny Brough knock-on had gifted possession. Paul McShane had the kicking duties and slotted it over from the touchline and after ten minutes the Tigers were 6-0 ahead.
The Giants were level on eighteen when Jake Mamo scored under the sticks, off an Aaron Murphy inside pass, after the Tigers had been forced into a goal line drop out. Brough kicked a simple conversion but the Giants were giving the Tigers a real run for their money.
Mamo got his second on twenty-four to put his side in the lead off a short pass from Brough. It was far too easy to walk through the Tigers defence and when Brough added the conversion it was 12-6.
A confusing shambles in defence, with two consecutive one-on-one ball steals, saw a Rangi Chase pass to Greg Minikin for the young winger to cross in the corner. McShane kicked brilliantly again for 12-12 after twenty-seven minutes.
After consecutive penalties the Giants were camped in the Tigers twenty. On the last tackle, a deft kick from the outside of Brough's boot was into the path of Mamo who grounded the bouncing ball for a first half hat-trick with three minutes left in the half.
Range Chase left the field looking dazed just before the interval, and trailing by 18-12 the league leaders looked in some disarray.
Six minutes after the restart Greg Eden took a Monaghan pass-back off a McShane cross field kick to stroll over to score. McShane added the extras to square up the scores again.
The Giants went back on the offensive. An Eden knock-on from a Brough high kick gave them a set of six in the Tigers twenty and on the last Brough slotted over a drop goal for a one point lead.
A sixty-sixth minute penalty for interference was a gift for Paul McShane and he kicked the goal from twenty-five metres and now the Tigers had a one point lead at 20-19.
On sixty-nine Jake Webster was sin-binned for a professional foul for a ball steal after the tackle was complete and from the resulting penalty Danny Brough regained the one point Giants lead with ten minutes left on the clock.
On seventy-two Brough was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, to level the numbers on the field for the remainder of the game.
Five minutes from time and Jesse Sene-Lafeo crashed over the line a couple of plays after a Darnell McIntosh attempted intercept had gone to ground. McShane was accurate with the kick for 26-21.
This was a close and enjoyable game for the neutral but lacked any real finesse. The Giants will rue the loss of Danny Brough for the closing minutes when they had every chance of turning a numerical advantage into a crucial two league points. All credit to the Tigers, playing without three of their stars and over forty minutes without Rangi Chase, as they bided their time and took their chances to win the game.
Mamo (3T), McIntosh, Mellor, Murphy, Ormsby, Brough (4G, DG, SB), Wood, Ikahihifo, Leeming, Wakeman, Roberts, Ferguson, Hinchcliffe. Subs: Clough, Smith, Rapira, O'Brien.
Eden (T), Minikin (T), Webster (SB), Shenton, Monaghan (T), Chase, McShane (4G), Lynch, Milner, Millington, Sene-Lafeo, Forster, Massey. Subs: Holmes, Moors, Springer, Cook.