Both Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos put out strong sides as the Champions travelled to the Minor Premiers for a pre-season friendly on the eve of Super League XXIII. Conditions were terrible for the game at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle, cold, damp and some snow flurries in the air. Both coaches Powell and McDermott named extended benches as they looked to give a run out to their fully fit squad players as the Rhinos looked towards the start of the season in the post-Burrow and McGuire period. After forcing and early drop-out Michael Shelton found Greg Eden to go over on the wing, a try reminiscent of last years league fixtures between the two sides. Luke Gale kicked the touchline conversion for a 6-0 lead. A second drop-out on ten led to the second try when James Green took a pass to crash over the line. When Gale added the extras it was 12-0 and the Rhinos had scarcely had their hands on the ball, except when they were kicking it off. When they finally got some possession the Rhinos looked dangerous, and after being held up over the line on three occasions it was hooker Matt Parcell who got over for a scrappy try, hacking the ball forwards and grounding after taking a Jamie Jones-Buchanan offload, to open Leeds account on twenty. Richie Myler, the close season signing form the Catalans Dragons, missed a simple looking conversion. As the half wore on the conditions seemed to be getting the better of both sets of players as handling errors crept in. The Rhinos finished the half with the upper hand but they’d had a frustrating twenty minutes having being unable break the Tigers line for a second time despite dominating play and they went into the interval trailing by 12-4. The Tigers opened the second half scoring on fifty-one when Luke Gale wriggled out of a tackle and found Oliver Holmes in score just in from the touchline. Jamie Ellis took over the kicking duties from a limping Luke Gale but failed to slot the ball between the uprights. On sixty-five Carl Ablett was yellow carded for something he said to the official and as he left the field for a ten minute rest, he took away any real hope of a Rhinos fightback. Neither side could break their opponents line as the mistakes and penalties increased and the clock ran down, much to the delight of the players and supporters, for a 16-4 Castleford victory. Little will have been gleaned from this unlimited interchange friendly except that both sides are likely to be competing for the top honours again this season. In the opening minutes it looked like it might be a landslide Tigers victory but once the Rhinos got into the game then they more than held their own. The Tigers took their chances in abysmal conditions but the Rhinos didn’t have that ruthless streak to make the most of their opportunities.  Both sides will now take stock and begin their preparations for their opening Super League fixtures at the start of February. Castleford Tigers open their campaign at St Helens and the Rhinos by visiting Warrington Wolves. Castleford Tigers: Roberts, Clare, Walker, Shenton, Eden (T), Trueman, Gale (2G), Moors, McShane, Green (T), Wardle, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: Milner, Sene-Lefeo, Holmes (T), Foster, Cook, Lo, Ellis, Millington, Aston, Egodo. Leeds Rhinos: Walker, Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall, Moon, Myler, Garbutt, Parcell (T), Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett (SB), Cuthbertson. Subs: Delaney, Mullally, Dwyer, Golding, Keinhorst, Peteru, Ormondroyd. Half Time: 12-4. Full Time: 16-4. Referee: James Child. Attendance: 3,656.  

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