IT WAS gritty rather than pretty, but Castleford Tigers were full value for the 20-4 home win over Catalans Dragons which got their 2019 season off to a positive start.
In captain Michael Shenton’s 300th game for the club, Tigers never quite got their attacking game into gear, though they did score three tries, but a strong defensive effort ensured they were always in control.
Castleford led 12-0 at the break, despite spending much of the first half on the defensive.
The home team started well, but then fell foul of referee James Child who awarded Catalans five successive penalties at one stage and placed Castleford on a team warning.
On the back of that Dragons forced three drop-outs – and debutant Matty Smith landed a 40-20 – but Tigers’ outstanding line defence stood up to everything thrown at it.
A penalty goal early in the second half opened a three-score gap and that was enough for Castleford to see the game out, though the two tries after the break were shared.
Liam Watts led a strong pack effort for Tigers and Paul McShane scored 12 points in a fine individual effort.
He opened the scoring after 11 minutes, dummying into a gap for a smartly-taken try from acting-half, following a superb run across the defence by Peter Mata’utia.
That came in the set after Dragons’ Lewis Tierney picked up Sam Tomkins’ grubber and looked set to squeeze over at the corner, but was crashed into touch just short by a superb tackle from Greg Minikin.
Other than an early chance to Greg Eden, who was set free by Shenton’s smart pass, but pulled down close to the line, Cas did not threaten again until the half-hour mark when McShane extended their lead with a penalty goal – for holding down – from just to the left of the posts.
Four minutes after that the hosts were in again with a quality try, finished in electric style by Eden from Shenton’s pass after Jake Trueman and Mata’utia handled across the line.
There was no goal that time,
Alex Foster, made a strong return in his first competitive game since suffering a season-ending injury suffered last summer and he went close to putting the game beyond Catalans at the start of the second half, but was dragged down just short from debutant Jordan Rankin’s kick.
An obstruction on James Clare – as he tried to reach a kick from a kick from Trueman – led to a penalty which McShane kicked to open a three-score gap which Catalans never looked capable of overhauling.
They did get over the line through Matt Whitley, making his debut after an off-season move from Widnes Vikings, but Castleford’s defence muscled up to prevent him getting the ball down.
And the visitors avoided a whitewash 12 minutes from time through a diving finish by Tierney, from Kenny Edwards’ pass, though Tomkins could not add the extras.
There was one scare after that, when Samisoni Langi looked set to score, but he was halted by Eden and Cas completed the scoring three minutes from time through a diving finish by Eden from another Shenton pass, with McShane landing a fine touchline goal.
Other than Luke Gale, Tigers were virtually at full-strength though Oliver Holmes would probably have featured if fit.
Second-rower Mike McMeeken was shaken making the first tackle of the game, went off for a concussion test soon afterwards and did not return.
The penalty count finished 11-10 in Dragons’ favour.
Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia. Clare, Minikin, Shenton, Eden, Trueman, Rankin, Watts, McShane, Millington, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey. Subs Milner, Moors, Foster, Cook.
Catalans Dragons: Tomkins, Mead, Langi, Wiliame, Tierney, Gigot, Smith, Simon, Da Costa, Moa, Edwards, Garcia, Casty. Subs Bousquet, Whitley, Goudemand, Baitieri.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).