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Tigers mount stirring fightback
Tigers mount stirring fightback
Castleford produced a magnificent performance to snatch a brilliant and deserved last-gasp 26-26 draw against Bradford at The Jungle.
The Tigers ran the Bulls ragged in ferocious heat all afternoon but the game looked over as Shontayne Hape crossed to put the engage Super League champions ahead late on.
But the hosts, who had led 20-12 until the hour mark, were not to be denied with Michael Shenton powering his way over in the last minute.
Craig Huby then held his nerve to land a brilliant touchline conversion and give the Tigers a seven-point cushion over bottom side Wigan.
The result meant new Bradford coach Steve McNamara has won just two of his first six matches in charge.
Yet, having been beaten 30-0 by rivals Leeds last time out, Bradford started as if determined to make amends and were 12-0 ahead within seven minutes.
The Bulls survived an early scare when Deon Bird was ruled offside as he dived onto Peter Lupton?s delicate kick into the in-goal area.
Bird?s momentum took him into the advertising hoardings and he left the action clutching his arm but the Bulls offered no sympathy as he lay stricken, racing up field to open the scoring.
Iestyn Harris cut open the Cas defence with an arcing run out wide and his pass inside gave full-back Michael Withers a simple run to the line.
The Bulls quickly followed up with a second score, flinging the ball wide for Marcus St Hilaire to cut inside to kick forward. Hooker Terry Newton was the first to react and pounced on the loose ball to touch down.
Paul Deacon?s two conversions gave the Bulls an ominous early lead but Castleford?s response, with Ryan McGoldrick and Lupton pulling the strings, was outstanding.
The Tigers enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure on the Bulls line that finally paid off when Danny Sculthorpe spun out a superb long pass for Waine Pryce to cross in the corner.
The hosts stepped up the pressure with Willie Manu finishing off a fine move by taking McGoldrick?s reverse pass to go in behind the posts.
Sculthorpe then touched down when he spotted a gap to force himself over and with McGoldrick adding two goals, Cas ? who were unlucky not to be ahead by more ? led 16-12 at the break.
They increased their advantage two minutes into the second half as Gray Viane brilliantly flipped the ball out wide for Pryce to crash over for his second from close range.
The Tigers lost prop Danny Ward, who left the field looking groggy, and referee Peter Taberner saw fit to place an incident on report during the stoppage.
Bradford were becoming frustrated in their attempts to get back into the game but they finally hit back on the hour when Lesley Vainikolo found space on the wing and set up Newton?s second try.
Cas were not finished and continued to hit the Bulls hard but the visitors fortuitously regained the lead after Michael Platt knocked on in front of the posts following a Newton charge down.
Newton put Deacon over from the resulting scrum and the half-back converted his own try.
Hape then forced his way over to seemingly put the game beyond reach but Shenton had the final say as the clock ran down.
Castleford (16) 26. Tries: Pryce 2, Manu, Sculthorpe, Shenton. Goals: McGoldrick 2, Huby.
Bradford (12) 26. Tries: Withers, Newton 2, Deacon, Hape. Goals: Deacon 3.
Castleford: Platt, Pryce, Viane, Bird, Shenton, McGoldrick, Lupton, Sculthorpe, Henderson, Nutley, Ward, Manu, R. Fletcher. Replacements: Handforth, Huby, Fa?aoso, A. Fletcher.
Bradford: Withers, Vainikolo, Hape, B. Harris, St Hilaire, I. Harris, Deacon, Fielden, Newton, Lynch, Meyers, McKenna, Langley. Replacements: Gene, Henderson, Ferres, Vagana.
Referee: P Taberner (Wigan)