Pythons edged out by high-flying Castleford in thrilling encounter

Harrogate Pythons suffered a narrow defeat to Castleford on home soil. Picture: Caught Light Photography

Harrogate Pythons were edged out 19-15 by Yorkshire Three high-flyers Castleford at Station View on Saturday.

The visitors, who sit third in the league, created the early pressure and ‘Gate were pinned back by some excellent kicking by the Cas stand-off.

The home line-out functioned well however and good charges out by Steve Smith and Ollie Wheatley saw the Pythons close in on the try- line, but a Stu Illingworth offload was knocked on.

Dan Bird’s men continued to go through the phases and Hugh Tatlow broke through only to be stopped just short of the whitewash.

Cas were then penalised and ‘Gate opted to take the scrum. John Reah picked up from the base and the ball was spun wide to Jon Pickard, but he was halted close to the line and stripped of the ball.

The visitors cleared upfield and broke through the centre of a ruck. ‘Gate were penalised at the breakdown and the resulting penalty was booted over for a 3-0 lead.

Cas then knocked-on from the re-start and from the scrum the Pythons went wide again, only for Pickard to be stopped by a crunching tackle.

‘Gate conceded another penalty which was well converted from distance to make the score 6-0 after 35 minutes.

The Pythons were then penalised at the breakdown again, but this time the effort was dragged across the posts.

Coach Bird rang the changes at half-time, bringing on George Wilton for his debut and Jake Harland at scrum-half.

Early in the second period, a Cas clearance was charged down by Jack O’Hara causing the away team to concede a penalty which Jed Wolfram slotted over to make it 6-3.

The visitors then enjoyed a period of pressure and a good rolling maul was spun wide but the Cas winger knocked-on with the line at his mercy.

Tatlow look to have cleared the danger by stealing a line-out, but the West Yorkshiremen ran the clearance back and were only denied a try by at tap-tackle from Pickard.

However, from an attacking line-out the Cas stand-off produced a lovely crosskick that was touched down by one of his wingers for 11-3.

The Pythons responded well with Wilton making a big impression with some powerful running.

A knock-on saw a scrum awarded which ‘Gate took against the head and Cas were then penalised, Liam Kernoghan taking a quick tap and putting Tatlow in under the posts, his effort converted by Wolfram to pull the score back to 11-10 with 15 minutes remaining.

The re-start was however knocked-on by Jack Clarkson and, from the resulting scrum, the away side went through the phases to score in the corner.

With the hosts playing catch-up, another penalty was conceded, allowing the Cas stand-off to make it 19-10.

The Pythons roared back and went through the phases themselves allowing Harland to find Wheatley one-on-one with his opposite number.

Wheatley stepped his man and crossed in the corner with four minutes left.

Another elusive run by Wheatley saw Tatlow put through a gap again, but the referee ruled the pass forward and blew his whistle to end the match.

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