Despite being without their England stars and losing Rangi Chase to injury during the first half Castleford Tigers dug out a big win at Huddersfield Giants.
Daryl Powell’s men trailed for much of the game, but Jesse Sene-Lefao’s try six minutes from time sealed a 26-21 win at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The Tigers finally came out on top in a close contest after three defeats in similar games previously and could be proud of the way they stepped up defensively in the second half when they came under serious pressure.
Castleford did get off to a good start when they went ahead after seven minutes with Joel Monaghan sent in down the left from passes by Grant Millington, Paul McShane and Greg Eden. A touchline goal from stand-in kicker Paul McShane was a bonus and it was looking good after the Tigers’ first attack of the game.
But Huddersfield hit back with some strong pressure, forcing a drop-out and levelling the score with a try by Jake Mamo onto Aaron Murphy’s half-break and well timed pass. Danny Brough added the conversion.
Sam Wood was held up over the line from the next strong home set and another drop-out was forced by Brough.
The Cas defence then cracked as Mamo went over again from Brough’s pass close to the line and Brough’s goal made it 12-6.
A mistake in their own half helped the Tigers get back on attack and they came up with their second try as Rangi Chase’s long pass over the top sent Greg Minikin over in the corner. McShane goaled well again to level it up.
Junior Moors was help up over the line as more pressure followed and Chase’s grubber forced a drop-out, but crucially the home defence held out.
Two penalties marched the Giants back down field and they went back in front when Mamo completed his hat-trick, getting on the end of a perfect Brough grubber. Brough’s goal made it 18-12 at half-time with Brough missing a long range penalty attempt on the hooter.
As in the first half Cas got off to the better start in the second with Eden diving over after Monaghan did well to catch McShane’s high kick and get a pass away in mid air. McShane’s goal levelled the game up again.
The second half saw the Tigers up their level in defence and they needed to as they came under big pressure.
Mamo’s grubber forced a drop-out then on the next set he was held up over the line.
Another try looked on the cards only for Alex Mellor to drop the ball trying to get to a Brough kick on the line and Cas breathed a sigh of relief.
It was not for long as Eden dropped a high kick 10 metres from his own line. From the resulting attacking set the Giants were held at bay, but Brough took the chance to land a drop-goal to nudge his side ahead.
The Tigers survived further pressure when a Brough grubber was just too strong and went over the back line.
Cas were rewarded for their defensive efforts when they finally got back over half-way and were awarded a penalty from which McShane sent the ball between the posts.
The lead was only to last three minutes as a hugely controversial decision by referee Ben Thaler went against them and threatened to lose them the match.
Jake Webster did well to chase back to halt a Sebastine Ikahihifo break and stole the ball from him in a one-one tackle. Although the Giants player’s ball carrying arm had not touched the floor Thaler ruled that the tackle had been completed and not only gave a penalty, also sin-binned the Castleford centre to his utter disbelief.
Brough kicked the goal to put the home team 21-20 in front and with less than 10 minutes to play and an extra man they looked set to win.
But Brough, who had previously been superb, blotted his copybook as red mist seemed to descend on him and he gave away back to back penalties. The second offence was for a dangerous tackle and he was sin-binned to even the numbers up again.
Cas made the most of the penalty and field position as well as they came up with the winning try when Sene-Lefao, who had been one of their best players on the night, brushed off three would-be tacklers in a strong finish.
McShane kicked his fifth goal and the Tigers survived a nervy last few minutes to complete their narrow victory.
Scorers - Huddersfield: Tries Mamo 3; goals Brough 4; drop-goal Brough. Castleford: Tries Monaghan, Minikin, Eden, Sene-Lefao; goals McShane 5.
Huddersfield Giants: Mamo; Ormsby, Murphy, Mellor, McIntosh; Brough, Wood; Ikahihifo, Leeming, Wakeman, Roberts, Ferguson, Hinchcliffe Subs: Rapira, Clough, Smith, O’Brien.
Castleford Tigers: Eden; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Monaghan; Chase, McShane; Lynch, Milner, Millington, Foster, Sene-Lefao, Massey. Subs: Springer, Moors, Cook, Tom Holmes.
Referee: Ben Thaler.