Leeds coach Richard Agar says his team “got away with a poor performance” after they twice came from behind to beat 12-man Castleford.
Rhinos captain Luke Gale was among the try scorers on his first appearance against his old club as the Challenge Cup winners strengthened their bid for a top four finish in Super League with a 28-24 win at Headingley.
Castleford were forced to play more than half the game a man short after second-rower Oliver Holmes, who was back in the side after a six-week absence, was sent off for kicking Leeds full-back Richie Myler.
They worked overtime in an effort to overcome the handicap but were undone by three tries in the last 17 minutes through Liam Sutcliffe, Tom Briscoe and Rhyse Martin.
“I thought in the first half we were just trying to go round them rather than through them,” Agar said. “I thought when we got direct, we looked more dangerous.
“There was a lot of scruffy poor periods, interjected with enough good stuff to win.
“It was still a first game for a few of those boys after the cup final. To come from behind late on is a good sign. We managed to claw our way out of a difficult situation.
“We probably feel like we got away with a pretty poor performance but that highlights that we’re a pretty together bunch and we want to rubber stamp our place in the play-offs.
“I’m going to credit the opposition. They held us up over the goal-line a number of times and fought to keep their line intact and they did that with 12 men.”
Both Agar and Castleford coach Daryl Powell believe the dismissal of Holmes for a petulant, rather than violent, kick on Myler was harsh.
“You can’t do that,” Agar said. “Whether it’s a red card or not, I’m not real sure. There didn’t look too much in it to be honest.”
Powell said: “I think it was poor discipline from Oggy. I’m not sure I would have sent him off, it might have been 10 minutes.
“It affected the game hugely. I don’t think it was a sending-off and it had such a big bearing on the game that you have to get that right.”
The Tigers looked to have overcome the dismissal when winger Greg Eden scored tries either side of half-time to go 18-12 in front and Powell was delighted with the commitment of his players.
“I thought we were awesome tonight,” he said. “We didn’t play great in the first half and obviously got a player sent off, which was always going to make life difficult.
“But in the second half we played really well. With 12 men we opened them up consistently on both edges and, with a little bit better execution, we score more points.
“I thought we scrambled, we worked our backsides off for each other so there are loads of positive signs.
“We’ve had a lot to deal with this year but it showed the spirit is unbroken. It was a courageous effort.”
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