Castleford Tigers held on in a tight finish to earn their first points of the Betfred Super League season with a 13-12 victory over Widnes at a freezing Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
In the end a Luke Gale drop-goal proved the difference between the sides with Thomas Gilmore sending two late drop-goal attempts wide for Widnes.
It was a world apart from the free flowing attacking style of last season from Castleford, but after their opening day loss at St Helens they will be pleased to have got over the line in a tight game.
A first half remarkable for missed opportunities ended with just one score and that did not come until the last minute.
But the Tigers were on top for large periods, forcing four drop-outs and having two “tries” disallowed.
They were straight onto the attack as Widnes allowed Jamie Ellis’s kick-off to bounce out over the back line for the first of the goalline drop-outs.
From the first attacking set Cas looked set to score only for Jy Hitchcox to drop Michael Shenton’s pass on the left wing.
After a smart Luke Gale grubber forced another drop-out Jake Webster seemed certain to score only to drop the ball in the act of trying to ground the ball over the line under pressure from a couple of Widnes tacklers.
An Ellis kick forced a third drop-out in the first seven minutes and from the following set Grant Millington touched the ball down over the line, but a forward pass was given after Paul McShane’s pass had bounced off Adam Milner.
Widnes finally got some field position and Matt Whitley charged over the line only for a forward pass to be given against Thomas Gilmore.
When Gale chased his own grubber to force a fourth drop-out more pressure followed from Cas without reward as Alex Foster was tackled just short of the line on a sixth tackle powerplay.
Ben Roberts was next to go close before Mike McMeeken charged over only for obstruction to be given by referee Chris Kendall.
At the other end, Michael Shenton took a good catch on his own line and a promising move ended when Hitchcox dropped Shenton’s pass with the line looking open down the left wing.
However, just when it looked like being a point-less first half Cas came up with a try as Webster made an initial break and Greg Minikin took his pass to go on a forceful run over the line. With Gale unable to convert from the touchline in the strong wind it was 4-0 at half-time.
Hitchcox went close for the hosts early in the second half, but it was Widnes who then enjoyed a spell of pressure that resulted in them taking the lead.
After Chris Dean was held up over the line and Joe Mellor’s grubber kick was knocked on near the line by Shenton the visitors had three successive sets and the pressure told when Matt Whitley collected Gilmore’s clever reverse kick to touch down for Widnes’s first try. Gilmore’s goal put them 6-4 in front.
Back came Cas and they went back ahead just past the hour mark as Ellis’s high kick was batted back and the ball was kept alive well for Shenton to send Hitchcox over for a try. With Gale goaling they now led 10-6.
A great set followed from the restart and ended with Ellis’s kick forcing a drop-out. The pressure was maintained and a penalty for interference at a play-the ball gave Gale a simple chance to kick a penalty and stretch the lead to 12 points.
The next set was impressive again and ended with Gale landing a drop-goal to make it 13-6.
It was far from all over, however, as Widnes got the ball back from a short restart and four tackles later were in for their second try, James Chapelhow going over from close range. Gilmore’s conversion made it 13-12.
Late drama then saw Gilmore well wide with an attempted drop-goal from long range and in the last seconds the Widnes scrum-half had another go from closer distance only to pull his effort wide again to the relief of the home crowd.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Minikin, Hitchcox; goals Gale 2; drop-goal Gale. Widnes: Tries Whitley, Chapelhow; goals Gilmore 2..
Castleford Tigers: Roberts; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Hitchcox; Ellis, Gale; Millington, McShane, Foster, Holmes, McMeeken, Milner. Subs: Moors, Massey, Sene-Lefao, Cook.
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury; Ashall-Bott, Runciman, Inu, Marsh; Mellor, Gilmore; Chapelhow, Walker, Burke, Dean, Whitley, Houston. Subs: Wilde, Albert, Cahill, Olbison.
Referee: Chris Kendall.