A try from Jason Qareqare with five minutes remaining and the conversion from out wide by Gareth Widdop ensure Castleford Tigers claim only their third win of the Betfred Super League season; watch Magic Weekend Day 2 live on Sky Sports on Sunday
By Marc Bazeley at St James’ Park
Last Updated: 03/06/23 9:15pm
Jason Qareqare’s try and the conversion from Gareth Widdop saw Castleford Tigers grab a crucial 26-24 victory over Leeds Rhinos in the final game of Day 1 of the Betfred Super League’s Magic Weekend.
Quickfire tries from Jacob Miller and Elliot Wallis erased an early deficit for Castleford after Derrell Olpherts had given the Rhinos the lead, but Leeds hit back three minutes before half-time through James Bentley’s score.
Rhyse Martin converting twice ensured last year’s Grand Final runners-up held a 12-10 advantage at the break in Newcastle, and the Papua New Guinea international was over within five minutes of the restart to put some daylight between Leeds and their West Yorkshire rivals.
Alex Mellor kept Cas in the hunt with two tries which sandwiched a score from Rhinos prop Mikolaj Oledzki, and Qareqare’s finish, followed by Widdop converting from out wide, ultimately proved enough to secure only their third win of the 2023 Super League campaign.
Story of the game
The Rhinos – already depleted by injuries – were forced into a late change, with Sam Walters replacing Tom Holyroyd after the latter suffered an injury in the warm-up, but that did not seem to affect them too much as they capitalised on a strong start to lead with six minutes on the clock.
Blake Austin, back in the starting line-up after a spell on the sidelines, opened the door for Olpherts to go over for the opening try with a sumptuous cut-out pass to the left and the winger did the rest to finish against his former club.
Back-to-back tries saw Cas put that early setback behind them though. The first came on 12 minutes when Jordan Turner ghosted through the defence and set half-back Miller up to finish and two minutes later the Tigers were ahead as Widdop sent winger Wallis over wide on the right.
The game then settled down into the arm-wrestle phase as both sides probed at each other’s defence without success. That was until the 36th minute though, when full-back Widdop’s slip allowed Bentley to chase down a grubber kick and ground the ball after it had just escaped the diving Cameron Smith’s clutches.
Prodigious goal-kicker Martin made no mistake with the conversion from in front of the posts and the second row put Leeds further ahead within four minutes of the restart when he took a nice pass from Austin and ran through a gap for a try which he converted as well.
Castleford were not done though, and centre Mellor finished on the back of some fine work from Widdop in the 49th minute – only for England international prop Oledzki to take an offload from Bentley and crash through the defence for a converted try which put the Rhinos 10 points up with 17 minutes to play.
Once again though, the Tigers dug deep and punished a knock-on from the hosts by working a move from the resulting scrum which saw Mellor add his second and Widdop kick the conversion to give them a sniff of victory in the 72nd minute.
The comeback was complete with five to go as Cas once again moved the ball quickly through the hands, with Qareqare taking the ball and stepping his way through to finish, followed by Widdop coolly slotting the conversion from out wide.
What they said
Castleford Tigers head coach Andy Last
“”It was one of those games where I thought we really needed it. Confidence has been low. We needed the win more than Leeds did and I am so glad we got it.
“I think the big thing for us is we just have to take it one game at a time. There was some real improvement in that performance for us.”
Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith
“I have been proud of all of our performances in one way or another, but it is a results-based competition.
“We’re not far away from getting results but we are a distance away from executing as we can on a regular basis.”
Player of the match Gareth Widdop
“You can tell it has been a tough year for the fans but as they do every week they turn up and it is great to see.
“We have been working hard and we have fallen short in a lot of areas this year but to put in a performance like that and get the two points is massive for our season.”
Leeds face another West Yorkshire rival when they travel to Wakefield Trinity on Sunday, June 11 (3pm). Castleford are at home to Salford Red Devils on Friday, June 9 (8pm).
Source : Sky Sports