Harrogate Pythons 20 v Castleford 14
Pythons see off Castleford to go second in the league
Harrogate Pythons hosted high flying Castleford in front of a large crowd at Station View for this top of the table clash. Cas employed a good kicking game right from the start, but any loose kicks were well returned by the Pythons back three of Matt Halpin, Ollie Wheatley and Jon Pickard. A good touch find from Tom Breakwell gave Gate strong field position, but Gate conceded the first of several early penalties at the resultant line out. Cas broke from a line out but the situation was resolve by a great cover tackle from Joe Bentham and Ram Ismail won the turnover to clear the lines. Ball off the top from Dan Shortman to scrum half Ned Rutty on halfway saw Rutty duck under an advancing defender then step his way into the clear. He swerved outside the winger and cut back to beat the full back for a fine try by the posts. Breakwell added the conversion. 7-0 11 mins. With the Gate front row of Nathan Wake, Sandy Dunlop and Jack O’Hara holding their own against the larger Cas front row, Gate forced Cas to concede a penalty and the 10 metre line. Breakwell stepped up to calmly slot between the posts. 10-0 15 mins. Cas upped their game and put tremendous pressure on the Gate defence, only to be met with some ferocious defence with back rower Luke Price-Gerrard putting in hit after hit and Bentham and Jed Carr holding firm in the centres. Breakwell was tackled behind the Gate line but from the scrum Gate pressure led to the Cas No8 being penalised for holding on. Another darting run from Rutty was ended by a high tackle which led to a yellow card for the Cas scrum half. Gate went for the attacking line but Bentham was stopped under the posts. Cas then turned over a Gate line out and went wide and good hands saw their winger cross in the corner. A fracas erupted which saw Cas down to 13 players as the referee yellow carded another Cas player. When things calmed down the conversion was successful from the touchline. 10-7 28 mins. Cas used their experience to run down the time on the yellows by constantly resetting scrums and not allowing Gate to take advantage of the 5 man Cas back line. Another Gate attack was ended by a high tackle and Breakwell stepped up to make the half time score Pythons 13 Castleford 7.
With coach Dan Bird ordering more of the same Cas started strongly only to be met with some ferocious defence by Gate. Some lovely Cas offloads saw them stopped under the posts and good work from Price-Gerrard forced a vital turnover. Sam Gibbs and Bentham combined well in midfield to win a penalty but the resulting line out was lost. Cas then pressurised a Gate scrum to win a penalty but the kick was collected by Wheatley who fell awkwardly in the tackle and was replaced by Dorian ENNEQUIN. Rutty broke again from a scrum and linked with Halpin who raced away from the Cas defence. The ball was recycled quickly and Gate went through several phases before Breakwell put a grubber kick behind the onrushing defence for Halpin to win the race for the touchdown. Breakwell added the extras. 20-7 70 mins. Cas were now combining well with their offload game only to be stopped by last ditch scramble defence with Bentham, Ian Binns and Shortman making vital tackles, Eventually the pressure told with Cas forcing their way over in the corner for a converted try. 20-14 78 mins. Gate restarted with the clock showing 10 minutes extra time had already been played. Cas again ran from deep and a lovely pass looked to have put their center clean through. He was however tap tackle by Bentham which forced a Cas knock on. Rutty hoofed the ball into touch to end the game to much delight both on and off the field. Final score Pythons 20 Castleford 18.
This was a great win for the Pythons which moves them to second place in the table, against a team who will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. Next weekend the Pythons entertain Knottingley in the cup.