IT WAS a painful way to lose, but Castleford Tigers will focus on the positives from their golden-point setback at Leeds Rhinos, according to second-rower Alex Foster.
Tigers hit back from 20-4 down after an hour to level the scores in normal time, only for Brad Dwyer’s long-range drop goal to condemn them to a third defeat in four games.
Castleford struggled to contain Leeds in the first half, when they made a series of unforced errors, but the manner of their fightback – despite being without a host of key players due to injury – convinced Foster they will come good.
His try levelled the scores inside the final 10 minutes of the scheduled 80 and he admitted: “The first half was a real disappointment.
“It was probably a bit typical of how we’ve been playing the last few weeks, particularly the right edge and I will probably take a bit of the blame.
“But in the second half there were some positives.
I think we were the better team in the second half and were really unlucky to miss out.Alex Foster
“I think we were the better team in the second half and were really unlucky to miss out, but credit to Leeds, they stuck in there for the full game and they were good.”
Tigers have been without halves Luke Gale and Jamie Ellis all season and another pivot Jordan Rankin joined them on the casualty list before the game.
Mike McMeeken, Nathan Massey and Mitch Clark were also unavailable – and Chris Clarkson went off hurt in the closing stages – so they are struggling for numbers.
Foster, though, believes Tigers’ fringe players are good enough to do the job and he insisted: “We have got quality in depth in our squad.
“We believe we’ve got players to come in in different positions and we will trouble teams with players who are on the outskirts of the team and challenging to be in the team.
“We just need to get the combinations right and train hard together and put the practice in and get it right on the field.”
Rankin’s injury meant a reshuffle with Paul McShane moving to scrum-half and Adam Milner into the hooking position, though later in the game youngster Calum Turner was introduced off the bench and that allowed full-back Peter Mata’utia to take more of a play-making role.
“It was difficult, it was a last-minute pull-out from Jordan Rankin on Thursday,” Foster said.
“We were under a little bit of pressure trying to get the combinations correct, going through them at the last minute.
“That was hard, but I thought we were a lot better in the second half once Pete moved to the half-back position.
“I think he steadies us a bit and I think we played okay.”
Foster – who has played in the centres at times this year, but was in the pack two days ago – has now scored a try in each of his last five games against his former club.
The Wetherby Bulldogs product has had a remarkable rise since joining Tigers on trial in 2017, having played for Oxford in Betfred League One at the start of that season.
He was this week named in England Knights’ performance squad and reflected: “I am absolutely over the moon, I think it’s great to myself and how I have performed, more so last year.
“I feel like I need to get back up to that standard and keep improving because that’s the sort of representative honours every player wants to get.
“It was really pleasing to have them keeping me in mind.”