In a game that was expected to be a close contest, Leeds Rhinos dominated third-placed Yorkshire rivals Castleford Tigers 34-14 at St James’ Park in Betfred Super League’s Magic Weekend.
A fantastic five try showing in the second half proved too much to handle for the Tigers who struggled to break out of their own half and stop the charging Rhinos, who strengthened their hopes of finishing in the top six.
Before Saturday evening’s game, Castleford had a perfect record up in Newcastle but that came shattering down quite quickly in a second half that not many would have predicted. The Tigers were able to rally late in the match but by that point it was too late as the game was far beyond their reach.
After a cagey opening 10 minutes, the Rhinos charged to score the first try of the game through Matt Prior after receiving the ball from Jarrod O’Connor right by the tryline, before Rhyse Martin converted. The Tigers pulled themselves level 10 minutes later after Jake Mamo latched onto a brilliant kick down the right side as Danny Richardson converted.
The Rhinos thought they had regained the lead moments later as O’Connor believed he had scored his first try for the club after James Bentley went on a brilliant run, breaking the Castleford line. However, the video referee ruled it out as O’Connor was called as held up.
It was then the Tigers’ chance to get in front for the first time in the match as Mamo was presented with a clear run towards the tryline, but he was unable to handle the pressure of Leeds players racing after him and he lost control of the ball and knocked on. However, his side were not left to pay for his mistake as they edged in front as Bureta Faraimo scored. The Tigers were one metre from the whitewash and Faraimo decided to dive in low with an abundance of power which the defenders couldn’t handle, handing his side a 10-6 lead heading into the break. It was at that point that the attendance for day one of Magic Weekend in Newcastle was confirmed as 36,821.
Leeds had a few promising attacks early in the second half and Martin came close to scoring but he was swarmed by black shirts around the tryline. It was good defending from the Tigers but they knew that they were in for a long half as Leeds were looking a lot sharper than in the first term. Almost immediately after the Australian was stopped, Ash Handley pulled the Rhinos level, finishing a swift move from right to left as he coolly placed the ball down for his 100th try for the club. Martin then made no mistake in converting to put his side back in front, scoring his second conversion of the game.
The Rhinos’ energy levels certainly went up a few gears in the second half as they were constantly pushing Castleford back, who struggled to gain possession and get out of their half. Then when Aidan Sezer powered through a crowd of Tigers players to score his first try for the club, there was a sense that the floodgates had opened. Whatever boss Rohan Smith had instructed at half time was working to perfection. Martin then made it three conversions from three to give his side a now comfortable 18-10 lead.
Richie Myler then got in on the try-scoring action, though he had to get his skates on after a kick forward from Liam Sutcliffe who set the Rhinos away on a brilliant break. Then Martin showed he was human after all as his kick ricocheted off the post. Bentley then piled on more misery on Castleford as Martin recorded his fourth conversion of the night as they extended their lead to 28-10, putting the result beyond any doubt. Leeds knew the openings were there and they continued to push as Sutcliffe scored and Martin once again converted.
In a rare Castleford attack, Faraimo gave his side a small lifeline with his second try of the game, but to further add to the Tigers’ shortcomings, Richardson’s resulting kick hit the post. Greg Eden had a great opportunity to run clean through and close the gap on Leeds but he was brilliantly closed down and tackled by Handley, who further added to his excellent evening. Castleford then ended the game with another consolation try through Mahe Fonua.