The only round two game between two round one victors, was the second instalment of the Totally Wicked double-header with the Leeds Rhinos taking on the Castleford Tigers, both sides looking to join Saints and Wigan on four points at the top of the table.
Leeds were without Richie Myler who was ruled out with a hamstring injury as they brought in Corey Hall and switched Broadbent into the full-back slot. There was no Kyle Eastmond, Robert Lui or Konrad Hurrell, as the Rhinos suffered a mini injury crisis. Castleford were without several of their first teamers too, Gareth O’Brien failing a head-assessment.
The bookies made the Tigers slight favourites for the win, but the Rhinos only had a two-point start on the coupon.
When Peter Mata’utia spilled possession on his own thirty metre line on four minutes the Rhinos were in the ideal position to build and on the fourth tackle Rhyse Martin was held up, the Tigers defending the mistake well and regaining the ball from good defence.
There were early mistakes from both sides in attack and defence. A Mata’utia break on eleven made ground for the Tigers and two plays later Oliver Holmes bashed his way through the Leeds defence for the opening try on twelve minutes. Danny Richardson assumed the kicking duties and slotted the conversion between the uprights.
Leeds had their chances over the coming minutes, but top-drawer Tigers defence denied them at every turn. Then Castleford hit Leeds on the break with Niall Evalds finishing off a Dan Smith break to score under the sticks and give Richardson a simple goal for 12-0.
Leeds were in for their first of the game thanks to a Luke Briscoe stretch for the line after taking a Jack Broadbent miss-out pass to score in the left corner. Martin pulled his kick wide of the near upright, Leeds still eight adrift.
On thirty-three minutes Darren Olpherts looked to have scored a third for the Tigers but the decision was referred to the video referee who spotted a knock-on in the build-up.
Scrambling Leeds defence on forty-five, including an opportunist strip from Luke Briscoe, prevented a certain try as the play switched from one end to the other.
On the hour mark the Rhinos edged back within two of the Tigers thanks to a stretch from Matt Prior after he took the pass from Kruise Leeming and lunged for the line. Martin added the conversion for 10-12.
With ten minutes left Jordan Turner took a long pass from Evalds to step inside Tom Briscoe and round close to the sticks for the third Tigers try. Richardson added the all-important conversion to regain the eight-point margin.
Some excellent defence won a tightly fought game for the Tigers as they made it two from two and joined Saints and Wigan at the top of the table. Where there were clear cut chances, they took them whereas the Rhinos failed to capitalise on their own opportunities. Castleford will take on Hull KR in the Cup full of confidence next week while the Rhinos have the ominous task of a trip to Saints.
Leeds Rhinos: Broadbent, Briscoe T, Hall, Sutcliffe A, Briscoe L (T), Sutcliffe L, Gale, Oledzki, Leeming, Prior (T), Mellor, Martin (G), Tetevano. Subs: Dwyer, Thompson, Donaldson, Smith.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds (T), Turner (T), Shenton, Mata’utia, Olpherts, Trueman, Richardson (3G), Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes (T), Blair, Massey. Subs: Milner, Hepi, Sene-Lefeo, Smith.
Referee: Liam Moore.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 4-12 : HT : 8-12, 10-12, 10-16, 10-18: FT.