Castleford Tigers were tested but found an answer as they came from 12 points down with less than half-an-hour to play to maintain their unbeaten home record with a 32-22 win over Widnes Vikings.
A first home defeat at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle looked on the cards when Daryl Powell’s men went 22-10 down to a Widnes side playing some great attacking rugby, but they dug deep and with great help from the home fans roared back to stay clear at the top of the Betfred Super League.
Greg Eden’s third successive try hat-trick on his 100th career appearance proved crucial to make sure the hosts avoided slipping up in this banana skin of a match.
Castleford got the start they wanted, but seemed a bit flat as they spent almost all the first 10 minutes inside the Widnes 20.
A Luke Gale high kick was just to far, caught behind his own line by Ryan ince. Jesse Sene-Lefao’s strong run was halted just short then Paul McShane’s grubber kick just rolled over the back line.
The Tigers did take the lead in the tenth minute when a lovely move straight from a scrum 10 metres out was finished by Greg Eden for his 22nd try of the season. Gale was unable to add the goal from the touchline.
Another dangerous attack ended when Gale’s clever angled grubber kick bounced off Roberts as he chased through at speed and the visitors survived.
Mike McMeeken then seemed set to score a spectacular try as he burst through from half-way only to see referee Chris Campbell had ruled an obstruction.
From the penalty, Widnes finally put an attack together and scored as Ince squeezed over in the corner. Ed Chamberlain added a touchline conversion to put his side in front.
Cas went close again when Eden gathered Gale’s long pass only to lose the ball under an Ince tackle as he aimed to dive over in the corner.
A shock result looked on the cards when the Vikings scored their second try on 29 minutes as full-back Jack Johnson was allowed to dance his way over through several poor attempted tackles. Chamberlain’s goal made it 12-4.
The Tigers began to up their game up to half-time with Gale’s kick forcing a drop-out and Sene-Lefao stopped only inches short.
They came up with what looked a crucial try in the last minute of the half when Gadwin Springer came up with a strong burst from 15 metres out to grab his first score of the season. Gale’s goal made it 12-10 at half-time.
It was Widnes that made the better start to the second half, however, as Ed Chapelhow was held on the line on the last tackle and Lloyd White’s kick hit the post to force a drop-out.
They stretched their lead to 16-10 when Charly Runciman’s smart flick gave Corey Thompson the chance to dive over in the corner.
Another try quickly followed as Widnes kept the ball alive through several phases and Jordan Johnstone finished the good move for a try goaled by Chamberlain to make it 22-10 on 49 minutes.
Cas finally got their hands on the ball and the result was a try when Ben Roberts and McMeeken pulled off a clever runaround play and Greg Minikin finished the move well. Gale added the conversion from near the touchline.
The next set was superb fast flowing play from the Tigers and with a second set won Widnes were back pedalling as Gale’s kick was superbly caught by Eden at speed to go over for a try.
With no conversion this time the Vikings stayed ahead and they remained two points ahead in a nervy spell until six minutes before time when Cas finally got back ahead.
After Greg Burke was held on the line on a sixth tackle play for Widnes the Tigers charged downfield and came up with a crucial score as a flowing move straight from a scrum led to Eden racing over for his third try. Gale’s touchline goal made it 26-22.
It was not quite all over as Widnes got the ball back from a short restart after referee Campbell failed to spot Zak Hardaker being taken out as he raced to get to the ball.
A drop-out was then forced, but the Tigers defence held firm and they won a big penalty just over half-way. Maybe surprisingly they choose not to kick it and the decision paid off as two strong charges led to Matt Cook storming over for the match winning try that was goaled by Gale.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Eden 3, Springer, Minikin, Cook; goals Gale 4. Widnes: Tries Ince, Johnson, Thompson, Johnstone; goals Chamberlain 3.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker: Monaghan, Minikin, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Lynch, McShane, Millington, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: Milner, Cook, Springer, T Holmes.
Widnes Vikings: Johnson; Ince, Chamberlain, Runciman, Thompson; Heremaia, Johnstone; Burke, White, Gerrard, B Walker, Olbison, J Chapelhow. Subs: E Chapelhow, Cahill, D Walker, Manuokafoa.
Referee: Chris Campbell.