Castleford Tigers Academy were edged out narrowly by 20 points to 18 by Huddersfield Giants in their first home game of 2022 at The Jungle on Friday night.
The Fords went closest in the early exchanges after a perfectly timed pass from Will Shaw put prop Freddie Brennan-Jones away as the big prop powered through the line. Tom Marris then tried his luck with a dart for the line, but the centre was agonisingly tackled inches from the try line.
Castleford continued to threaten as Taylor Baddeley and Harry Render put in efforts to score but the hosts were then hit by a sucker punch. Giants forward Joshua Rhodes spotted a gap and found himself with space to run inside the Tigers’ 20. Rhodes then found Tobias Morley on his inside shoulder for the hooker to run in unopposed for the first try of the night. Codey Downey was on kicking duties for the visitors and knocked over the conversion over to put Giants 6-0 ahead.
Around 17 minutes in the visitors were down to 12 men. Tigers winger Render caught well under a high ball, however, the youngster was hit by a high shot from Huddersfield second-rower Jack Billington who was then sent to the sin bin.
Render was a bright spark for the hosts down the left as he continued to try and create. The wing clipped a delicate chip over the top which Hugo Nikhata slapped across towards Alfie Dean near the line. The second row thought he was about to pick up and score, but the referee called a knock on in the build-up.
On the 25th minute Huddersfield got their second try of the night after they were given good field position due to the Fords being penalised for offside. Fullback Ethane Wainwright shifted the play quickly left and put the ball into the hands of Downey for the centre to cross. Downey then hooked the conversion wide, but the Giants now lead by ten.
With just over ten minutes to go before the break Castleford responded with their opening score of the contest. Huddersfield looked to have survived Cas’ attack as they saw out the set but a brilliant rip in the first tackle saw the ball go back over the line and Taylor Baddeley was in the right place to pounce on the ball and dot down. Leyton Davies put his conversion wide of the uprights.
Seconds from the half-time break the Fords were presented the opportunity to nudge a bit closer to the Giants after a penalty was awarded for a high tackle. Cas elected to go for the posts with a change of kicker as Toby Mallinson stepped up, although the #14 hooked his penalty wide for the scores to read 4-10 at half-time.
Unfortunately for the Tigers they were caught cold in the opening moments of the second 40 as Wainwright stepped on the gas and cut in away from the Castleford defence. The full-back then passed wide to Downey, who in turn found Morley on his right for the hooker to grab his brace. Downey was then successful with his kick to put Huddersfield 16-4 ahead.
As the contest ticked over the 50-minute mark the Tigers grabbed hold of the momentum of the game. Young starlet Jason Qareqare unlocked the Giants defence with a perfectly executed pass out to Render on the left wing for the #2 to skid over by the corner. Mallinson was desperately unlucky to see his effort come back off the post from the conversion.
Castleford kept coming and they crossed for their second try in almost as many minutes. This time it was some magical feet and strength from stand off Jaiden Tang who managed to burst for the line and ground the ball under the pressure of three Huddersfield defenders. Mallinson caught the conversion beautifully from near the touchline for the Tigers to get within two points.
The Fords thought they had got themselves in front for the first time in the match with interchange Ben Farrar bulldozing his way towards the try line but was denied inches from scoring.
Huddersfield had been on the end of a substantial amount of Cas pressure and then claimed what turned out to be a crucial score with ten minutes to go. The creativity of Wainwright was causing issues again as Giants’ #1 floated a long pass to the left for Downey to collect and power over for his second of the night. The centre couldn’t convert his own try for the visitors to have a 6-point lead with ten minutes remaining.
In the closing moments of the game the Tigers were gifted a golden chance to attack the opposition line after a high shot on Farrar close in. Qareqare was the creator once more as he found Will Charlesworth who did brilliantly to get the ball down by the corner post. The pressure was then on Davies to level the game in the last seconds from the tee out wide, but the halfback unfortunately placed it wide for the game to end in an 18-20 loss for the Tigers Academy team.
Full-time: Castleford Tigers Academy 18–20 Huddersfield Giants Academy
Castleford: Qareqare, Render, Nikhata, Marris, Charlesworth, Tang, Davies, Brennan-Jones, Baddeley, Thompson, Dean, Coulson, Shaw
Interchanges: Mallinson, Glancy, Adkins-Beety, Farrar
Tries: Baddeley, Render, Tang, Charlesworth
Goals: Davies (0/2), Mallinson (1/3)
Huddersfield: Wainwright, Whitford, Ryan, Downey, Billy, Copley, Dean, Rhodes, Morley, Siddique, Peel, Billington, Lyne
Interchanges: Greensmith, Baines, Gibson, Mackay-Gunn
Tries: Morley x2, Downey x2
Goals: Downey (2/4)
Sin bin: Billington