Castleford arrested their Super League slump in style with a thrilling 32-18 win over Leeds at Headingley to avenge the humiliation of their 60-6 home defeat by the Rhinos in May.
Winger Greg Eden scored two tries on his first appearance for almost three months as the Tigers secured only their second win in nine league games to keep alive their outside top-six hopes.
Coach Daryl Powell had urged his team to step up their efforts to give skipper Michael Shenton a chance of returning from a facial injury to lead them into the play-offs and he will be thrilled by their response.
They were superbly led by hooker Paul McShane in the absence of Shenton, while Powell was able to bring back nine players who sat out Monday’s home defeat to Huddersfield and field 13 members of his Challenge Cup final line-up.
Leeds also had a stand-in captain, winger Ash Handley, who led the side in the absence of new skipper Matt Prior, who was a withdrawal due to Covid-19.
The Rhinos were also without their other regular starting front rower Mikolaj Oledzki because of injury and they lost his replacement King Vuniyayawa midway through the first half with a head injury.
They were trailing 6-0 at that stage after Castleford centre Jordan Turner pounced on a handling error by Rhyse Martin to get Eden over for his first try.
Danny Richardson kicked the first of his five conversions and added a penalty to increase his side’s lead to 8-0 before full-back Niall Evalds slipped a pass out of the tackle to put centre Peter Mata’utia over for the Tigers’ second try.
Richardson’s third goal made it 14-0 but Castleford were reduced to 12 men after 28 minutes when Mata’utia was sin-binned by referee Ben Thaler, who was in charge of his 400th game, for a dangerous tackle on Handley.
The Rhinos quickly made the most of their numerical advantage when half-back Rob Lui – back after a three-month absence in place of the suspended Luke Gale – fended off the attempted tackle of Oliver Holmes to score an opportunistic try, which Martin converted.
Leeds, who had looked the livelier team from the start, continued to cause all sorts of problems for the visitors’ defence, particularly through attacking full-back Richie Myler, but failed to finish off their impressive build-up play.
Stand-off Liam Sutcliffe, who had the ball knocked from his grasp as he went for the line just before the break, was taken off for the second half and that gave hooker Kruise Leeming the chance to demonstrate his prowess as a playmaker.
Leeming looked the part when he moved the ball out wide, from where a lovely tip-on by Myler enabled centre Harry Newman to get Handley over for a try, which Martin goaled to cut the deficit to two points.
Castleford struggled to handle the Rhinos’ high-tempo game but they scrambled well enough and scored on the counter-attack to extend their lead after 57 minutes.
McShane relieved pressure with a neat break and then put in a lofted kick for Eden to get centre Jordan Turner over for his side’s third try.
Leeds loose forward Zane Tetevano was hauled down inches short of the line following a break by Myler, while replacement hooker Brad Dwyer raced back to prevent a breakaway score by Eden.
And the visitors clinched the win when Evalds palmed the ball back from Richardson’s high kick to give Eden the chance to score his second try.
The impressive Dwyer grabbed a third try for Leeds in the closing stages but Castleford had the final say when an 80th-minute break by the outstanding Evalds created the position for former Leeds centre Jimmy Keinhorst to score their fifth try.