Harrogate Pythons bounce back with fine victory at Castleford to re-ignite title fight

Harrogate Pythons number eight Hugh Tatlow races towards the Castleford try-line.
Harrogate Pythons number eight Hugh Tatlow races towards the Castleford try-line.

The Yorkshire Three title race appears to be well and truly back on after Harrogate Pythons bounced back from last weekend's defeat to leaders Wensleydale.

Dan Bird's men began Saturday's match at fellow high-flyers Castleford 10 points off the pace, but the combination of a fine 44-26 away victory and 'Dale's surprise defeat to Knottingley saw that gap trimmed significantly.

Second-placed 'Gate now find themselves six points off top spot, but with a game in hand heading into the business end of the season.

Castleford kicked-off with a strong wind behind them and initially retained possession well, however from the visitors' first serious attack Hugh Tatlow broke through the home defence.

He then found Ram Ismail, who was stopped just short of the whitewash and rolled over the line to touch down, but was penalised by the referee.

Undeterred, the Pythons immediately turned over Castleford ball, and this time Max Sharp roared through a gap and passed inside for Tatlow to open the scoring.

Tom Breakwell added the extras for a 7-0 lead after five minutes.

The hosts hit back with a try of their own to narrow the gap to two points, then a converted 22nd-minute effort saw them take the lead at 12-7.

'Gate responded well, and by the half-hour-mark they were back ahead.

A Castleford clearance was run back by Matt Audsley, then Tatlow picked up at the breakdown and broke down the blindside to score by the posts, Breakwell converting for 14-12.

The hosts registered the game's next touchdown, though the final word of the opening half went to Bird's team as Breakwell kicked a penalty to make it 19-17.

Trailing by just two points, 'Gate began the second period well and were soon back into the lead when Breakwell booted over another two penalties, making the score 23-19 in favour of the Station View outfit.

Things got even better for the Pythons when a big Luke Price-Gerrard tackle saw Castleford dispossessed and Tatlow was sent scampering away to register his hat-trick try, converted by the trusty boot of Breakwell.

Another mistake by the hosts allowed Sharp to break and race clear. He was caught just short of the line, but 'Gate recycled quickly and, following a Leach carry, Sharp crossed in the corner.

Breakwell again added the extras, leaving the visitors in full control of proceedings, 37-19 up with just a quarter of an hour left to play.

The game was then ended as a contest when Leach forced his way over the whitewash and Breakwell converted after both Sharp and Jon Pickard had been stopped just a couple of metres out.

Castleford did manage to add a late consolation score, though it proved to be too little, too late.

Next up for the Pythons is a home meeting with rock-bottom Leeds Modernians on Saturday afternoon.