Super League: Catalans Dragons 24-32 Castleford Tigers
|Betfred Super League|
|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|
Jy Hitchcox scored two tries as Super League leaders Castleford overcome Catalans, despite temporarily being down to 11 men in the second half.
Early Hitchcox and Zak Hardaker tries saw Tigers lead 14-0, but Lucas Albert, Tony Gigot and Fouad Yaha responded to put Catalans 18-16 up at the break.
Greg Minikin edged Tigers ahead, only for Kevin Larroyer and Mike McMeeken to then be sin-binned in quick succession.
Hitchcox's second helped seal the win after Catalans had reclaimed the lead.
It took a penalty try to edge Dragons ahead once again but Hitchcox's try six minutes from the end, and Paul McShane's try in the 77th minute, with Castleford back to a full complement of players, ensured Tigers extended their winning run to 12 matches.
Castleford now just need one win from seven matches in the Super 8s to guarantee themselves a semi-final spot.
Defeat is Catalans' seventh in eight games as they head into The Qualifiers, where they will now have to compete to retain their top-flight status.
In their first game since prolific try scorer Greg Eden suffered a knee injury, Castleford showed no signs of slowing down as Hitchcox and Hardaker went over to help put Tigers 14 points up inside 20 minutes.
While Daryl Powell's side got to show off the depth and breadth of their attacking quality in Eden's absence, Super League's leading try scorer this season tweeted before kick-off at Stade Gilbert Brutus that he hoped he would not be "out for too long" after meeting with specialists.
After Tigers' strong start, Dragons fought back in fine style, with Gigot contributing 10 of their 18 first-half points before Hardaker landed a penalty for Castleford just before the interval.
The second half was tense, with the lead changing hands a further three times, and contentious as Larroyer was sin-binned for an unsportsmanlike act in a tackle.
It took two late tries, including a acrobatic touchdown from Hitchcox, to ensure the two points after a penalty try was awarded to the hosts by the video referee when Vincent Duport had the ball kicked from his hands by Hardaker.
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."
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.