Jy Hitchcox provided one of the finishes of the season to complete a late Castleford comeback in the south of France and put his side 10 points clear at the top of the Betfred Super League.

 

Greg who?

Only a week ago it was doom and gloom on the left flank for Castleford when Super League’s top try scorer was seen holding his shoulder in considerable pain after one of his trademark finishes. The business end of the season beckoned, and it was likely Eden wouldn’t be able to add to his 34 tries before the season’s conclusion. So what were Castleford to do? Where would their tries come from? Just wheel out another one. Although Jy Hitchcox has only had a handful of appearances this season, he was shifted to the left wing to replace Eden and not only did he suffice – he provided two of the best finishes seen in Super League this season. The first came off the back of some ad-lib Castleford attack and a sublime fix and pass from Michael Shenton to show Jy Hitchcox a slight channel of space, which he exploited with scorching pace and a flying finish in the corner. Not only did he put Castleford’s first points on the board, he also gave a preview of what was to come.

With six minutes on the clock, Castleford were behind by two points on the scoreboard and looked to have fallen foul of the referee, but the Tigers carried on rolling up the pitch in an attempt to crack the Catalans defence. After having a few clear cut opportunities that didn’t materialise, Michael Shenton found himself with a two on two on the Castleford left flank 10m from the Castleford line. He drew a flailing Lewis Tierney and passed to Hitchcox who was left with the imposing Krisnan Inu standing in his way, so what did he do? Take off. Every inch of the man’s body was out apart from the hands holding the ball and every inch of the in-goal area was used in what was, considering the context of the game, the greatest try this season. Hitchcox, however, is not partial to a screamer or two, scoring a Hardaker-esque solo effort against London Broncos in 2015. While the two tries were polar opposites, they both showcased Hitchcox’s sensational finishing ability that can only make one think of what else is to come.

 

Ice cool Castleford can handle anything

Saturday’s dramatic comeback win over Catalans was just another defining moment in Castleford’s season. While it made negligible difference on the ladder, it adds to the aura of a Castleford side that seem to be unbeatable at the moment. They were not even at full strength against Catalans with the likes of Eden and Webster sidelined but they still looked as cool as ever when coming back from 2 points down twice in the game. It is clear that Castleford weren’t as dominant as usual due to some bizarre refereeing decisions from the vintage duo of Bentham and Hicks as well as the Catalans side being able to beast them up front in parts, but they still got the job done. They relished the two yellow cards, the bold calls that didn’t go their way, and most of all, the bullish Catalans side pounding away at their line for large parts of the game. In the process they showed that the most important thing for a championship winning side is to relish adversity – and that’s exactly what they do.

 

Bold calls changed fortunes for Catalans

After weeks and weeks of falling foul of the officials with penalty counts racking up against them, the French boys’ luck looks to have changed. They no longer seemed to get drawn into a dirty game or let the opposition buy penalties for fun but instead imposed their strong forward game on their adversaries. They rolled forward off penalties and actually got on top in parts of the game and the score line reflected it for large parts of the match. As a result their numbers seemed to come up every time their was a 50/50 call. Castleford got picked up in the scrappy disputes and dubious tackles with Catalans walking away with the advantage more often than not. First it was a late tackle from Millington rather than a Castleford possession, then the McShane leg pull rather than the Greg Bird push, followed the Bousquet no try, try, or knock on – who knows? It was almost as if Bentham and his colleagues were making up for the sins of their predecessors. While the lack of consistency in the decisions was frustrating for the supporter, with some Castleford fans arguing it was 11 against 14 at times, it was about time the Dragons got ‘the rub of the green’ – albeit coming at an inopportune time for the Castleford Tigers. Luckily for the RFL referees the better team on the day won, but if the Tigers hadn’t, some serious questions would have been asked. They still should be.

 

Catalans will survive

Things are looking up for Catalans as they head into the middle 8’s competition. They’ve put together better performances recently and look to have the metal over all the Championship sides that are fighting for promotion. In pushing Castleford so close, they’ve shown they have got what it takes to beat top sides in the Super League. Couple that with their marked home advantage and they’re sitting pretty to stay up. The main thing that Championship sides will struggle with is the size of the Catalans pack that has put Super League sides in difficult places numerous times this season. While they haven’t had the results they would have desired or that anyone would have predicted at the start of the season, they should have enough to stay up and move forward to build for next season.

 

Post Match Media

Castleford head coach Daryl Powell:

“I think it is a big win for us obviously. The circumstances of it with us going down to 11 men and still defending like we did. I thought there was some really tough calls out there.

“I just thought the character and effort from us was outstanding. I thought we started the game really well and then allowed Catalans back into it a little bit.

“I thought that Jy Hitchcox produced two world-class finishes and as a team we just have so much character and determination and we’re not willing to be beaten. It was a fantastic win for us.”

Catalans head coach Steve McNamara:

“I’m disappointed we never closed the game off. I thought we were in a position to win the game after a dreadful start, we dominated large parts of that game.

“Our lack of ability to control the ball and control the period of time the Castleford were down to 12 men and 11 men for a short period of time probably cost us.

“We’ve been competitive in every game since I’ve been here, we’ve given ourselves a chance to win every game since I’ve been here and a lot of that has been down to sheer hard work, effort, energy and the ability to turn up to work every day and try and improve.”

 

Team Lists:

Catalans Dragons: Gigot; Tierney, Inu, Duport, Yaha; Albert, Myler; Moa, Aiton, Navarrete, Anderson, Horo, Bird.

Replacements: Bousquet, Garcia, Baitieri, Margalet.

Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Monaghan, Minikin, Shenton, Hitchcox; Roberts, Gale; Millington, McShane, Sene-Lefao, Foster, McMeeken, Massey.

Replacements: Lynch, Cook, T. Holmes, Larroyer.

Referee: Phil Bentham.

Catalans Dragons (18) 24
Tries: Albert, Gigot, Yaha, Penalty try Goals: Gigot 4
Castleford Tigers (16) 32
Tries: Hitchcox 2, Hardaker, Minikin, McShane Goals: Gale 5, Hardaker