Head coach Daryl Powell spoke about Castleford Tigers’ growing belief as they beat Leeds Rhinos 31-24 off the back of another flying start at Headingley.
Powell was able to celebrate his first victory over the Rhinos as Cas boss after seeing his side set up their win by opening up an 18-0 lead in the first 16 minutes against the Super League leaders.
Tries by Grant Millington, Liam Finn and captain Michael Shenton, all converted by Luke Gale, gave them a flying start and as in recent weeks they then withstood a comeback to see out the result.
Leeds hit back at 24-24 before Liam Finn’s drop goal and a Denny Solomona try late on clinched the points for the Tigers, who are now up to fourth.
Millington opened the scoring from Nathan Massey’s pass then Gale and Scott Moore set up Finn for the second and Shenton collected a loose ball dropped by Carl Ablett to race through and take his tally past 500th career points for Castleford.
Ablett began the comeback with their first try on 26 minutes and Danny McGuire fed winger Ryan Hall, who charged over for a try.
Crucially, perhaps, Liam Sutcliffe missed the conversion, but a try just before half-time by Adam Cuthbertson, set up by Paul Aiton, closed the gap further and Sutcliffe’s goal made it 18-16.
Cas made the better start to the second half as Shenton set up Solomona for his sixth try in three matches and Gale’s goal gave them an eight-point advantage.
Back came Leeds and Jimmy Keinhorst forced his way over for a try goaled by Kevin Sinfield, who came on as substitute.
Sinfield then levelled the scores when the Rhinos were awarded a penalty in kickable range and it was all to play for into the last 10 minutes.
But the Tigers defence held firm for the remainder and when they managed to get good field position Finn came up with a drop-goal to edge his side ahead again.
They clinched victory five minutes from time when Rhinos winger Ash Handley dropped Gale’s high kick and Solomona swooped to collect the ball and score a try converted by Gale, who was able to celebrate victory over the club where he started.
Castleford coach Powell said: “It was an edgy win. Obviously any win you get at Headingley is a big one.
“We got off to a pretty unbelievable start and we’ve done that three games on the spin now, where we’ve rattled the opposition.
“They got a bit of a foothold and we struggled. I’d like to see us have a bit more control of games at times, but the reality is when you play a team like Leeds they are going to put you under some pressure and they are going to score some points.
“Our belief is growing that we can go anywhere and win games.
“We’ve got some key players to come back in the coming weeks and I don’t see why we can’t challenge anybody.”
Scorers - Leeds: Tries Ablett, Hall, Cuthbertson, Keinhorst; goals Sutcliffe 2, Sinfield 2. Castleford: Tries Millington, Finn, Shenton, Solomona 2; goals Gale 5; drop goal Finn.
Leeds Rhinos: Sutcliffe; Handley, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall; McGuire, Burrow; Singleton, Aiton, Peacock, Ward, Ablett, Cuthbertson. Subs: Leuluai, Sinfield, Walters, Yates.
Castleford Tigers: Roberts; Gibson, Webster, Shenton, Solomona; Finn, Gale; Lynch, Moore, Millington, O Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: Milner, Boyle, Moors, Bailey.
Referee: James Child