Five tries in a 20-minute spell either side of half-time helped Castleford Tigers to a morale-boosting 38-24 victory over Catalans Dragons that ensures they will play Super League rugby next year.
Despite all their missing first teamers and only playing as well as they can in a few spells the Tigers were able to find a way to put enough points on the board to end their five-match Super League losing run at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
The final score suggested a great game. It was not as both sides made far too many errors and new top flight referee Mike Woodhead struggled at times. But Cas will not mind it as they have been so close to wins in their previous three matches without success.
Cas were sluggish early on and made a number of mistakes, but finished the opening half strongly to open up a 20-6 lead.
Despite the initial errors the Tigers’ line survived as Dave Taylor lost the ball near the line and a knock-on at the play the ball ended another dangerous Catalans attack.
It was Cas who scored first when their first piece of decent play saw them move the ball well for Ben Crooks to send stand-in winger Ryan Hampshire over for a try in the corner.
Back came Catalans as defenders fell for a dummy by Justin Horo, allowing the Dragons forward to charge over for a try goaled by Thomas Bosc.
Denny Solomona was denied a try at the other end after referee Mike Woodhead ruled a forward pass by Greg Minikin.
Solomona then turned into try saver as a superb man. ball and all tackle took Jodie Broughton into touch near the home line.
Cas gradually began to play with more cohesion and speed and were rewarded on 27 minutes when Hampshire collected his second try. This time he had a lot more work to do after taking a long looping pass by Luke Dorn, but he brushed off two would-be tacklers to touch down in the corner. Again, in the windy conditions, Luke Gale could not convert, but the Tigers were ahead.
They almost stretched their lead when Gale’s kick to the corner was knocked back by Solomona only for Matt Cook to be tackled five metres out.
Minikin was then held up over the line before Frankie Mariano marked his return to the first team with a superb solo try, bursting through two tacklers to race over from 40 metres out.
Gale’s goal made it 14-6 and the Tigers scored again right on the hooter as Paul McShane burrowed over from close range with the Dragons defence stretched all over the field by some speedy Cas attacking play. Gale’s second goal made it 20-6 at the break.
Cas started the second half where they left off in the first as from their first attack they scored again, Dorn racing over after taking Gale’s inside pass when the half-back had chosen to run a sixth tackle play. Gale added the conversion.
Catalans came straight back with Julian Bousquet held up over the line and winger Fouad Yaha sent over in the corner by a smart pass. With Bosc adding a touchline conversion the gap was back to 14 points.
Cas were now looking much slicker in attack and scored again when Oliver Holmes followed up Gale’s delicate grubber kick to touch the ball down over the line.
Gale goaled and five minutes later the Tigers had another try to celebrate when a lovely run round involving Grant Millington and McShane led to Dorn finishing in great style. Gale’s conversion took the lead out to 38-12 and it was effectively game over.
Catalans kept going as Remi Casty ran onto the ball strongly to go over from close range and Bosc goaled.
But the game then got messy with injuries slowing it down and errors as the Dragons tried to chase the game. A fight in back play briefly livened up proceedings, but the match petered out.
Catalans did score in the last minute when Bousquet went over from close range, but it was over as a contest well before the final 10 minutes with Cas making it four straight home successes against the french team.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Hampshire 2, Mariano, McShane, Dorn 2, Holmes; goals Gale 5. Catalans: Tries Horo, Yaha, Casty, Bousquet; goals Bosc 4.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn; Hampshire, Crooks, Minikin, Solomona; McShane, Gale; Tickle, Milner, Patrick, O Holmes, Moors, Massey. Subs: Millington, Mariano, Cook, Springer.
Catalans Dragons: Escare; Broughton, Gigot, Duport, Yaha; Bosc, Myler; Maria, Da Costa, Casty, Taylor, Horo, Garcia. Subs: Bousquet, Pelissier, Mounis, Navarrete.
Referee: Mike Woodhead.