Grant Millington’s try and Marc Sneyd’s conversion five minutes from time earned Castleford Tigers a 24-24 draw in a remarkable local derby against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley.
In a game that had just about everything there were controversial decisions, great attack and defence, a thrilling finish and the sight of seeing Rhinos skipper Kevin Sinfield sent-off for head-butting Luke Dorn.
Both sides felt hard done to at the finish, but it could prove a useful point come the end of the season and Daryl Powell’s men showed once again that they could live with the best in the league.
Coming from behind three times, as they did, will also give them confidence for the even bigger matches coming up.
There was never more than six points between the teams in a contest that was never less then compelling from first minute to last.
After a half played at 90 miles an hour there was nothing separating the sides at the break, both scoring three tries and kicking three goals.
Cas will have felt they should have been in front as they had a “try” correctly disallowed when Sneyd dropped the ball over the line and missed several other chances after making initial breaks only to force passes or take wrong options with the line looking open.
They could be pleased with the way they really took the game to the Rhinos, however, after being given a flying start with the opening try after just 68 seconds.
Justin Carney knocked back Sneyd’s high kick to the corner and Michael Shenton scooped the ball up to score a try converted by Sneyd.
Leeds hit straight back and after Danny McGuire knocked on near the line to let the Tigers off the hook they levelled the score up on their next attack when Tom Briscoe outjumped Carney to catch McGuire’s high kick and charge over for a try converted by Sinfield.
Jake Webster went close for Cas as the frantic action continued and within a minute the Rhinos went in front as they kept the ball alive after Sinfield’s high kick was not dealt with by Kirk Dixon. There to pick it up after just coming on as substitute was Ryan Bailey and Sinfield’s goal made it 12-6.
But back came Cas and Weller Hauraki went over against his former club after a great run off his wing and offload by Dixon. With Sneyd converting it was level again after 18 minutes of great action.
Sneyd was unlucky not to put the Tigers in front when losing the ball over the line and it looked like Carl Ablett had done the same for the hosts two minutes later, but the video referee awarded a try as he managed to regather the ball after losing it under pressure from two Cas tacklers.
Cas continued to look dangerous in attack and after Shenton went close they levelled the game up again when Nathan Massey, just on as sub, spotted a gap to go over from dummy half for his first try of the season.
Hall was held up over the line as the Tigers defence held strong near the end of the half and the last action saw Dorn make one of many breaks only to see his pass knocked back by the Rhinos and a penalty enabling them to clear their lines.
The second half saw both sides improve their defence although Cas did think they had made a breakthrough six minutes in when Carney dashed over in the corner only for his effort to be ruled out for an obstruction by Shenton in the build-up. Video referee Phil Bentham made the call, but it was certainly controversial as after several viewings there did not look like there was anything wrong.
Relieved Rhinos upped the intensity of their game and exerted strong pressure for a spell with Joel Moon bundled into touch a metre out by Dixon and Jake Webster and Kylie Leuluai held up over the line.
At the other end, Millington could not quite collect a Shenton grubber that bounced up over the line. The luck stayed with Leeds and on 58 minutes Ablett took advantage of a fortunate bounce of the ball as he chased his own kick and touched down about an inch away from the back line.
Sinfield’s conversion gave the hosts a six-point advantage again and they looked like holding onto it as they kept their opponents pinned in their own half for most of the next 10 minutes.
Zak Hardaker went closest to scoring while Sinfield had a drop-goal attempt charged down.
But then out of the blue Sinfield was penalised for holding down Dorn after a tackle and reacted to what the Cas full-back was saying by aiming his head and making contact with the Australian.
The result was a correct red card and it was all set up for a fantastic finish.
Cas quickly took advantage of rattled opponents as Lee Jewitt’s well timed pass sent Millington through a gap for a try. Sneyd held his nerve to add the conversion and it was all square with four minutes left.
In a frantic finish Jamie Peacock of all people tried a drop-goal for the Rhinos, sending the ball wide, and Sneyd had his drop-goal attempt charged down. That gave Cas six more tackles, but on the first they got carried away and Hauraki dropped Dorn’s pass to end any hopes of turning the one point into two.
Scorers - Leeds: Tries Briscoe, Bailey, Ablett 2; goals Sinfield 4. Castleford: Tries Shenton, Hauraki, Massey, Millington; goals Sneyd 4.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker; Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Ward, Ablett, Delaney. Subs: Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Bailey, Achurch.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn; Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Carney; Sneyd, Finn; Lynch, Milner, Jewitt, Holmes, Hauraki, Millington. Subs: Huby, Massey, Clark, Mariano.
Referee: Ben Thaler.