Leeds 24 - 31 Castleford (half-time 16-18)

Leeds came into their Thursday evening encounter at Headingley with a slender one point advantage over second-placed St Helens, with Wigan a further point back. They were looking to extend their lead at the summit, ahead of the mouth-watering Saints-Wigan match on Friday evening.

Castleford can be obdurate opponents at the best of times, given the local derby nature of the games between themselves and the Rhinos. However, with league positions gaining greater importance this season due to the introduction of the Super 8 Play-off structure, most of the teams are striving for a place in the top eight with games fast running out.

'Cas' certainly seemed to have the wind in their sails against Leeds from the beginning. They exploded out of the blocks during an exhilarating opening quarter of an hour to bag three scores. Grant Millington, Liam Finn and skipper Michael Shenton all went over for tries to put Leeds firmly on the back foot at 18-0 behind.

The Rhinos finally found a foothold in the match to reply with tries of their own from Carl Ablett, powerhouse winger Ryan Hall and Adam Cuthbertson. They were back in the battle, but still trailed 16-18 at the interval.

If the home fans thought that their heroes were about to turn the outcome around with a storming second-half performance, they were sadly in for a disappointment.

It was the visitors instead who maintained their advantage thanks to a brace of tries from Kiwi Denny Solomona, with Finn's drop goal ensuring that there would be no successful comeback.

Leeds had briefly levelled the scores at 24-24 in the second period after Jimmy Keinhorst's converted score was added to by Kevin Sinfield's penalty.

But Solomona's second try and Finn's kicking proved vital as the Tigers eventually ran out 31-24 winners.

Castleford moved into fourth place in the league standings after the victory, prior to the rest of the game 18 fixtures being played over the weekend.

St Helens v Wigan Warriors (Friday evening)

As if there was any need to boost the headline game in the Super League on Friday night, Leeds Rhinos' home defeat has provided an added incentive to both teams.

St Helens entertain Wigan in what is traditionally one of the season's major fixtures on the Rugby league calendar. Yet both teams can now close in on the league's pacesetters with victory in their game and in Saints case can even climb back to the top of the league.

In what is expected to be a close and bruising game, Wigan's Ben Flower has a chance to put right his costly mistake in last year's Grand Final. That was the match where he was sent off in the early minutes for repeatedly punching Saints' former player Lance Hohaia in the head. Subsequently he was banned for six months from the game.

St Helens could be weakened as a result of injuries to key player Tommy Makinson and also to Luke Thompson, although the talented youngsters in their squad may surprise many after being called up.

Wigan by contrast are expected to maintain a consistent squad after successive wins, following on from their heavy defeat against Catalans on the road.

If the match repeats the format of their previous meeting in April which the Warriors won, fans can expect a tense low-scoring game.