Largely written-off in pre-season predictions, after a disappointing eighth-place finish in Super League 2020, Castleford got their final campaign under Powell off to an impressive start with a comprehensive 21-12 defeat of highly-fancied Warrington Wolves at Headingley.
Warrington, a possible destination for Powell when he leaves Tigers at the end of this year, played like a team of strangers, but Castleford could have made heavy work of it after losing scrum-half Gareth O’Brien midway through the opening period.
Instead, they rolled up their sleeves and met the challenge head on, with star signing Niall Evalds enjoying a fine debut in tandem with former Huddersfield Giants man Jordan Turner.
Between then, Evalds, brought in from Salford Red Devils and Turner scored three of Castleford’s four tries, though Paul McShane was the lynchpin.
Depth in the halves is something Tigers hope will lead them to success this term, but McShane, having started at hooker, quickly found himself playing there.
Danny Richardson missed out through injury so Gareth O’Brien paired up with Jake Trueman, only to suffer a concussion which will rule him out of Friday’s derby against Leeds Rhinos.
McShane proved a more than able stand-in, capping an effective display with an important touchline conversion – on an off-day for more established kickers on both sides – and a late drop goal.
Powell admitted Castleford were “rattled” by losing O’Brien, but was pleased with the way his men coped with the disruption.
“We handled it pretty well and scored some smart tries down our left-hand side,” he said.
“It is a big win for us, we started the second half a bit scratchy, but got the game back and our defence was pretty solid for the main part.”
Oliver Holmes’s early try, from a Jake Trueman grubber kick, was followed moments later by Warrington’s opener through Toby King, who beat Evalds to Stefan Ratchford’s towering up and under.
Warrington could have squared the scores from a penalty in front of the posts, after another shaky moment from Evalds, but opted to take a tap and that proved a mistake as Tigers’ defence held out and they dominated the rest of the half to go in 10 points ahead.
Evalds stepped through from close-range, held Daryl Clark up over the line at the other end and then provided the final pass for Turner to score on the final play of the half.
Ten minutes into the second period, video assistant James Child backed up referee Chris Kendall’s call of no try to Cheyse Blair from McShane’s low kick and Warrington were back in the contest in the next set as Daryl Clark scorched through the middle against his former club, from namesake Jason’s initial break.
Tigers regained control with the same move which brought them their previous try, Trueman and Evalds shifting the ball left for Turner to go over again and – after Peter Mata’utia had failed with two attempts – McShane goaled off the touchline.
The reigning Man of Steel opened a three-score gap with a drop goal nine minutes from time, which meant Tigers had breathing space after Austin ran in for an unconverted try in the 76th minute following Ben Currie’s break through the middle.
Much is expected from Evalds this year and Powell liked what he saw of the England Knights full-back first time out.
“Niall is a class player,” Powell observed.
“He has spent a fair bit of time in pre-season building up his combinations and you could see he has fitted into the team and the way we play.
“He has pretty electric speed and his pass selection is great as well.
“Our finishing on our left-edge was very good.”
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Turner, Trueman, O’Brien, Millington, McShane, Griffin, Holmes, Blair, Massey. Substitutes: Watts, Milner, O’Neill, Smith.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Lineham, Wrench, King, Charnley, Austin, Widdop, Hill, Walker, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Philbin. Substitutes: J Clark, D Clark, Mulhern, Ashton.
Referee: C Kendall (Huddersfield).
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.