CASTLEFORD RUFC recovered from two East Coast defeats to strengthen their hold on Yorkshire One survival with a powerful second half performance in a 24-10 win against York.
They fielded a much stronger pack with the return of influential flanker Will Nutbeen and second rowers Phil Watson and Paul Connell. However, skipper, Chris Willett was still sidelined and James Baldwin deputised at number eight. With John Bramham not available, Daniel Price remained in the centre with Wayne Thomas at scrum-half.
The visitors came to Willowbridge Lane on the back of a midweek 36-3 Yorkshire Shield hammering of runaway Yorkshire One leaders Malton & Norton and started strongly. Their early pressure soon paid dividends as flanker Matt Green finished off a crisp, cross-field move. Outside-half Karl Birch tagged on the conversion.
However, Castleford rallied and gained good metres as acting skipper Steve Johnson led from the front with successive bulldozing drives. Fly-half Ian Mattison soon reduced the deficit to a single point with two well struck penalties when the visitors were caught offside.
Birch responded with a penalty when Watson was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul five metres out from his line. But the home side shook off their one-man shortfall to take the game to York as Mattison slotted a third penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Despite still having 14 men, Castleford showed great resolve at the start of the half and soon set up a good attacking platform following powerful incursions from Johnson, Baldwin, Watson and hooker Darren Walker. The backs responded as the ball was moved quickly across the line and centre Price received the ball at pace ten metres out, side-stepped inside and powered over with two tacklers in tow to put the hosts in front for the first time. Mattison added the touchline conversion and further stretched the lead with another penalty.
To their credit York did not crack following further home side pressure and were unlucky not to score following some excellent approach work from their number eight, Andy Kay. Winger Charlie Nicholson sped down the touchline side and despite a crunching tackle from full-back Dale Turner appeared to cross in the corner. However, referee, Mel Tate ruled a knock-on over the line much to the disbelief of the York supporters as Castleford breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
Cas withstood the York onslaught that followed and regrouped to make the game safe with the final play of the game deep in injury time. Watson scooped up a loose ball just outside his own 22 before offloading to super-sub Brad Christian. The replacement flanker ripped through the defence on a 40-metre romp before putting speedy winger Martin Dye clear to the corner.
Cas will hope to repeat this performance when they host North Ribblesdale on Saturday.