A pulsating night at The Jungle brought a long-awaited derby victory for Castleford Tigers. Dave Craven spoke to match-winner Jake Webster.
FOR Castleford Tigers’ Jake Webster, wandering around Wheldon Road and accepting fans’ requests for ‘selfies’ after another thrilling night at the famous old ground, life doesn’t get much better.
Following Thursday’s epic 18-14 win over Leeds Rhinos, coach Daryl Powell described the veteran Kiwi centre as their “anchor” given the manner he has slotted in for Michael Shenton, their captain and England international sidelined by a knee reconstruction since the first game of the year.
Webster scored two tries to help bring down treble-winners Leeds and deliver the club’s first home win over their derby rivals since 2009.
An absorbing second half had remained 14-12, in Rhinos’ favour, since the interval until the former Hull KR man crossed in the 73rd minute. What was his reaction when realising that try would bring such a memorable triumph?
“It was sort of mixed,” insisted Webster, whose longevity is illustrated by the fact he won the Tri-Nations with New Zealand in 2005.
“We knew it still wasn’t over. I was just happy to do what I can for the team and it was just the reaction we had needed after the previous week.”
Back then, Castleford had been embarrassed 56-12 at Warrington in a performance that was so bad Powell felt the need to apologise to their fans.
They were in danger of losing a fourth successive game until Webster’s finish but now they head to France for Monday’s contest against Catalans Dragons revived.
Luke Gale, the scrum-half who seems destined for England honours this term, had provided the killer pass, just as he had done in the first half for Andy Lynch’s opening try.
Webster admitted: “Just watch him and you can see how good Galey is.
“He’s been fantastic and works so hard for the team.
“There’s not much more I can say; I love playing with him and I’d hate to play against him.
“We’re fortunate to have him.”
Castleford, despite missing a raft of regulars including not only Shenton but Luke Dorn, Benny Roberts, Lee Jewitt and Oli Holmes, were inspired at times especially in defence.
Webster, 32, conceded it was an arduous encounter as Leeds – with just two wins all season – desperately attempted to turn their own campaign around.
“Everyone could see how tough it was,” he said, Castleford having squandered an early 12-0 lead to go 14-12 down by half-time.
“It was just one of those games where we got off to a good start but they came back at us.
“That’s the sort of team Leeds are; give them a sniff and they are one of the best.
“Credit to the boys, though, to tough it out and pull out that victory at the end.
“I always knew we could. We had to stick to our guns; we knew we had it in our arsenal and had to keep grinding it out and when the opportunities came we took them.
“It was just the re-action we needed. We’ve another tough game on Monday in France but this gave us all the confidence we need so we’re looking forward to it.”
Webster now has four tries in seven games this term, Powell labelling this latest performance as “pretty special.”
The coach was also full of praise for 36-year-old prop Lynch, who defied a knee injury to take his place in the team.
“He’s unbelievable, the toughest player I’ve ever seen,” said Powell.
“He’s a role model for anybody.”
On the display, that takes Castleford up to seventh, he added: “That was more like it. That was the commitment and effort and character and spirit we’ve shown over the last couple of years.
“We didn’t get everything right but we worked hard. For a team that has been rattled a fair bit, it was a magnificent effort, it’s probably the biggest win since I’ve been at the club.
“We’ve been in a really tough place and I asked the players individually for something special and they certainly delivered that.
“It was a big relief to break the losing cycle. There’s been lot of soul-searching this week and the players responded really well.
“Last week I could see that we weren’t on. This week I could sense we were going to make them fight all the way and to win the game is awesome for us.”