LED BY barnstorming prop Craig Huby, Castleford Tigers deserved their 43-20 win at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats yesterday.
But after the batterings of recent weeks – which had seen them concede 146 points and score only 18 – it was a much-improved effort by the hosts.
It took a couple of late tries to send Tigers into the break with a healthy 26-12 advantage, but Wildcats rallied to cut the gap to six points before Cas regained their hold on the game.
The result was in the balance going into the final quarter, but Tigers’ sixth touchdown ended Wakefield’s hopes and they ran out of steam after that as Cas added a couple of late tries to inflate the scoreline more than Wildcats deserved.
Tigers coach Daryl Powell felt it was an “uncomfortable” performance from his side, insisting: “We were a fair bit off, we never got going.
“Wakefield did a few things that caused us a fair bit of trouble and we conceded some soft tries from kicks.
“Overall it was one of our worst, but we did show a fair bit of resolve and we tidied our game up a bit towards the back end.
“Wakefield tired like we thought they might do, but we never got a grip of it and we certainly need to improve for Monday.”
The home team showed plenty of effort and put in some big hits, though again their defence let them down at crucial times and it was the fourth successive game in which they have conceded more than 40 points, which clearly isn’t good enough.
Boss Richard Agar was pleased with “parts and spells” of Wildcats’ performance, but admitted: “Our ability to tough it out when we are tired and to do it under fatigue and keep doing what we are doing is the issue for us at the moment.
“We came up with some poor one-on-one misses early doors for soft tries.
“We worked our way back into the game and challenged them early in the second half, but we ran out of gas badly.”
Tigers set off at a fast pace and Justin Carney – who had a big game – stormed over for the opening try after just four minutes, from Michael Shenton’s pass.
A big hit by Paul Sykes on Richard Owen forced a drop-out, but Danny Kirmond – who went off with a quad injury soon afterwards – lost possession and Tigers made the let-off count as Andy Lynch’s pass sent Grant Millington up the middle and the outstanding Daryl Clark was in support to score.
Paul McShane forced a drop-out and then twisted over from acting-half to get Wildcats on the board, but then his loose pass led to Michael Channing and Liam Finn combining to put Owen in.
There was a huge element of good fortune about Wildcats’ second try, which came after what looked to be a knock-on by Matt Ryan.
Referee Phil Bentham felt the ball had gone backwards and Reece Lyne nipped clear to carve out a try for Jarrod Sammut, who added his second conversion.
Tigers led only 14-12 at that stage, after 30 minutes, but Richard Moore’s high shot on Channing led to a penalty from which Owen grabbed his second try and then Oliver Holmes celebrated his new contract by setting up a try for Scott Wheeldon, with Marc Sneyd adding his third goal of the half.
Wildcats started the second period in a similar fashion to how Tigers began and ended the first, with a couple of quick-fire tries. First Lyne went over thanks to a kind bounce from Ryan’s kick and then Sammut followed up to touch down his own bomb after it had been dropped in-goal by Owen, though he missed both conversion attempts.
Castleford did most of the pressing after that. Frankie Mariano dropped Millington’s pass over the Wakefield line before Tigers tapped a kickable penalty and their adventure paid off when Finn got to Sneyd’s kick.
Sneyd made the points safe with a drop goal on 73 and Tigers finished with a flourish as Owen put Clark in and then Wheeldon bagged his second from Millington’s fine pass, Sneyd’s fifth goal completing the scoring after the hooter.
Tigers came through unscathed but Powell said he will make changes for Monday’s visit of Warrington Wolves. Said the Tigers chief: “The second game of Easter is always a notoriously difficult one and players really have to summon up energy from somewhere.
“It is going to be an interesting game on Monday and we are going to have to improve a fair bit.
“We can do things a little bit easier at times.
“We have got a few fresh boys who will come into contention. It is important you manage your squad over the Easter period and it will be a different team that rocks up on Monday.
“Maybe there was an element of players trying to get themselves through the first game, but it was certainly down on the standards we’ve set ourselves.”
Kirmond, Lyne and Dean Collis are doubtful for Wakefield’s trip to Huddersfield Giants the same afternoon.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Mathers, Lyne, Collis, Sykes, Riley, Sammut, Siejka, Anderson, McShane, Scruton, Kirmond, Ryan, Washbrook, Subs (all used) Godinet, Moore, Smith, Annakin
Castleford Tigers: Clare, Owen, Channing, Shenton, Carney, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Millington. Subs (all used) Milner, Boyle, Mariano, Wheeldon.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).