CASTLEFORD TIGERS lifted the Prince of Wales Hospice Challenge Trophy after an 18-0 win over Featherstone Rovers in both teams’ opening pre-season game at the Jungle.
It was a deserved win for Tigers, but Rovers came out of the game with credit and both coaches will have taken something positive from it.
There are exceptions – such as Leeds Rhinos’ 50-28 win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Boxing Day – but Christmas fixtures are often dominated by defence.
That is the starting point for most teams in pre-season and both these sides look well on course in that department.
Keeping any side scoreless is a good achievement in rugby league, but Featherstone, from the Kingstone Press Championship, will also be encouraged at conceding only three tries against strong Super League opposition.
With ball in hand, there were some good ideas, but neither team was match-ready and the bitter conditions didn’t help, though the pitch was in good condition.
There were a host of errors and a total of 16 penalties awarded by referee Richard Silverwood (nine of them to the home team) added to the stop-start nature of the game.
Recruit Denny Solomona looked lively on Tigers’ left-wing and scored the lone try of the first half.
He skated through the frozen in-goal area at the Railway End – which was closed to fans – off Ashley Gibson’s pass on 17 minutes.
Solomona also made a try-saving tackle on Kyran Johnson midway through the second half after the Rovers winger snapped up a loose ball, though the ex-London Broncos man spoiled an otherwise impressive first appearance by holding on too long and being sin-binned.
That sparked a skirmish, proving there is no such thing as friendly in rugby league – though the game was otherwise played in a good spirit and most of the penalties were for technical offences, rather than foul play.
Captain for the day Liam Finn’s conversion provided the only other points of the opening period, though Rovers twice thought they had scored only for Silverwood to say no.
On seven minutes Ben Blackmore was held up over the line by a posse of Tigers defenders including James Clare, who had been tackled into touch just short by Blackmore a minute earlier. Eight minutes before the break Johnson touched down, but Silverwood spotted a knock-on by Ian Hardman at acting-half.
Fev started well, but made regular changes which disrupted their momentum, though Australian recruit Sam Irwin looked sharp when he came off the bench at hooker.
Matt Cook, who had a spell on loan with Tigers in 2008, increased their lead five minutes into the second half.
Scott Moore, another Cas loan players six years ago, caught out Rovers’ defence with a neat pass to Nathan Massey, who made good ground and then Cook stretched over from England academy forward Will Maher’s pass on the next play.
Tigers’ best move of the game produced their third and final try three minutes from time when Adam Milner and Gibson combined twice from 40 metres out before Jordan Tansey went over and Finn’s third goal completed the scoring.
Castleford Tigers: Howden, Clare, Channing, Gibson, Solomona, Tansey, Finn, Crossley, Milner, Moors, Cook, McMeeken, Wheeldon. Subs (all used) Maher, Massey, S Moore, Holmes, Westerman.
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Blackmore, Chappell, Minns, Johnson, Sykes, Moore, James, Ellis, Baldwinson, Lockwood, Cording, Bussey. Subs (all used) Irwin, Cooper, Tonks, Coventry, Walmsley, Foster, Milner, Newbould.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.