Tigers come up short against Giants
Posted: Thursday 24th September 2020 - 10:17 PM
A brave effort from Castleford came up short as Huddersfield reeled them in to win 31-19 in the Betfred Super League.
The Tigers headed to the Halliwell Jones Stadium without a raft of key players and a new-look spine as they searched for a vital win to keep their play-off hopes alive but they couldn’t hold on despite leading midway through the second half.
In the end, a hat-trick from England winger Jermaine McGillvary and a masterclass second half performance from Aiden Sezer proved the difference between the teams, leaving the Tigers to wait for some reinforcements and likely needing a near unbeaten finish to the season to reach the top-four.
It could have been different for Cas after they made a strong start to the game. Gareth O’Brien – moving to the halves in the absence of usual pairing Danny Richardson and Jake Trueman – looked a threat early on and he created the first half chance as his kick to the corner was tapped back by his replacement at full back, James Clare, but the Tigers’ chase was pinged for offside as the opportunity passed by.
It was nevertheless a solid opening as they had the better of the territory early on and they deservedly hit the front with two tries in five minutes, the first coming when Mike McMeeken offloaded brilliantly out of the tackle to find the on-rushing O’Brien and he ghosted round the Giants full back to finish under the posts for a lovely try that he converted himself.
Things got even better for the Fords a few sets later as a break from Jesse Sene-Lefao down the left flank established good field position once again and this time Cas took full advantage as Paul McShane’s run-around play created just enough space for Greg Eden to touch down inside the corner flag to stretch the lead out to 10-0.
Cas were looking in control at this stage and almost crossed for their third try when McShane had an effort ruled out for obstruction close to the line and it proved to be a turning point as the Giants hit back with two quickfire scores of their own, McGillvary crossing for his first courtesy of a sublime long pass from Aiden Sezer before Jake Wardle spun out of a couple of poor attempted tackles in midfield to finish under the sticks and put his side in front 12-10 after 25 minutes.
Daryl Powell responded by throwing on experienced forward Grant Millington along with feisty younger duo Jacques O’Neill and Tyla Hepi and they proved influential in keeping the Tigers’ hopes alive. Millington almost made an instant impact as he pounced on McShane’s kick into the in-goal only for it to be ruled out for offside, whilst O’Neill and Hepi traded clearing runs in midfield with the latter’s offload on half way almost carving out chances for O’Brien and Sene-Lefao.
Eventually, the pressure told as the Tigers regained the lead at the break – albeit narrowly – as another neat offload from McMeeken gave Calum Turner a gap to wriggle clear on half way with Hepi’s quick play-the-ball on the next play earning a penalty. O’Brien stepped up to slot the goal over and level the scores before cleverly nudging his team back in front with a drop goal as his forwards worked hard to get downfield on the next set from the kick-off.
After finishing the opening 40 minutes strongly, Cas picked up where they left off at the start of the second half as young outside back Jack Sanderson – who became the 1,000th player to represent Castleford in the club’s history on the night – capped his debut with a sensational try.
It all started with a sliced clearing kick from Turner inside his own half but Eden was alive to the bounce as he regathered to race into the backfield. McMeeken pushed up on the right and returned Eden’s pass back to the winger with a third key offload of the evening before Sanderson took the final pass to finish a flowing move in the right corner.
O’Brien missed a second difficult conversion but did make it a two-score advantage with a penalty from 40 metres out, although it sparked a long run of Huddersfield dominance in the game as they again came back to hit the lead and this time they stayed in front.
McGillvary was the next over with his second try of the night before Sezer capped a four-set attack on the Castleford try line with a drop goal of his own to level the scores once again. The Giants were well on top against a tiring Tigers defence at this stage and Sezer showed all of his quality by orchestrating and finishing another foray with a decisive try as the Giants roared into a 25-19 lead ten minutes from time.
McShane worked another run-around as he desperately searched for a way back into the contest but Turner couldn’t hold on a desperate defence rushed in and as the ball slipped from his grasp so did Cas’ last opportunity to take anything from the game, leaving McGillvary to seal his hat-trick in the final minute.
Full Time: Castleford Tigers 19-31 Huddersfield Giants
Clare, Sanderson, Blair, Shenton, Eden, O’Brien, Turner, Watts, McShane, Griffin, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey
Millington, O’Neill, Hepi, Fleming
Tries: O’Brien, Eden, Sanderson
Conversions: O’Brien (1/3)
Penalties: O’Brien (2/2)
Drop Goal: O’Brien
Golding, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, McIntosh, Turner, Sezer, Wilson, Holmes, Matagi, Edwards, McQueen, Lawrence
Russell, Wood, Trout, Gavet
Tries: McGillvary (3), Wardle, Sezer
Conversions: Sezer (5/5)
Drop Goal: Sezer
*Match report by Matt Holden
**Photography by SWPix
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