OFF-SEASON SIGNINGS on both teams caught the eye in Castleford Tigers’ 42-28 win over Featherstone Rovers.
Tigers’ star turn was stand-off Ryan Hampshire, who will spend the 2016 campaign at Castleford on loan from Wigan Warriors.
The Normanton Knights product grabbed one try, was involved in several others – including one scored by the visitors – and booted seven conversions from as many attempts.
He showed some outstanding skill, including a pass to Mike McMeeken in the build-up to Tigers’ first try and to the same player for their fifth – and on this evidence will be a very handy acquisition.
McMeeken also played well for Castleford, though he picked up a facial injury following a fight with Rovers’ former Super League prop Darrell Griffin, who threw the first punch and would probably have been sent off in a competitive game.
A brawl developed and both McMeeken and Griffin were yellow carded, proving there may be trial games, but there is no such thing as “friendly” rugby league.
McMeeken touched down twice and was one of only two Tigers try scorers not making his first appearance for the club.
The other was young full-back Ash Robson, who capped a fine game with an outstanding touchdown, running on to his own clever grubber kick.
When McMeeken barged over to complete his brace on 48 minutes the score – which had been 30-0 at the break – was out to 42-6 and Rovers looked like being embarrassed.
But the Kingstone Press Championship visitors emerged with credit for a spirited response during which they scored the game’s final four tries.
Anthony Thackeray, the ex-Castleford stand-off signed from Dewsbury Rams, got into the game – both teams’ first of pre-season – and some of Rovers’ youngsters more than matched their top-flight opponents.
Tigers made a succession of changes in the second period and had some rookies on at the end, but Rovers were excellent in the final half an hour and will take confidence from the fact they were without several of their big names.
In the opening half Cas’ full-time conditioning showed and they were too big, quick and strong.
Ben Crooks, Joel Monaghan, Greg Minikin, Hampshire and McMeeken all crossed and Robson touched down straight after the break.
McMeeken added his second after Sam Day had got Rovers off the mark.
Then Thackeray intercepted Hampshire’s pass to race 70 metres and landed his second goal, Colton Roche touched down and Kyran Johnson – who added two conversions – bagged a late brace.
Castleford Tigers: Robson, Monaghan, Crooks, Minikin, Hitchcox, Hampshire, T Holmes, Springer, McShane, Maher, McMeeken, Moors, Jewitt. Subs (all used) Cook, Westerman, A Milner, Webster, Roberts, Gill, Douglas, Sheehan.
Featherstone Rovers: Brown, Johnson, Channing, Cording, Turner, W Milner, Thackeray, Griffin, Wildie, Bostock, Snitch, Davies, Tagg. Subs Day, Cooper, Roche, Ormondroyd, Hill, Sowerby, Coventry.
Referee: Sam Ansell (Huddersfield).