CASTLEFORD TIGERS’ Luke Gale returned from injury to help kick shambolic Catalans Dragons to pieces.
The England scrum-half missed last week’s 40-28 win at Huddersfield with an ankle issue but there was no sign of that here as he terrorised Super League’s bottom club.
Hooker Paul McShane and second-row Oli Holmes both scored braces in Castleford’s biggest-ever win over the hapless French side who now have just two victories from 11 games.
But reigning Man of Steel Gale was the architect, Daryl Powell’s side building up a 19-0 interval advantage with all three of their tries coming courtesy of an assist by Gale and his boot.
One telling kick saw him force a drop-out that led to the position for their 14th-minute opener although full-back Jake Trueman deserves great credit, too.
As Gale launched a high bomb, the youngster sneaked in ahead of opposite number Lewis Tierney to claim the ball and then had the presence of mind to find McShane with a smart pass.
When Tony Gigot, the talented but inconsistent French playmaker, gave away a cheap penalty – it is a common theme with this woeful Catalans side – Gale put up another steepling kick for captain Michael Shenton to this time claim in the 20th minute. In the next set, prop Grant Millington – part of a particularly formidable Tigers bench – barrelled through former Wakefield front-row Mickael Simon on a surging break.
He was eventually hauled down but Gale then teased in another kick that forced Jodie Broughton into conceding a drop.
From there, the result was inevitable; a third Castleford try created yet again by their talisman. Just to show he isn’t one dimensional, Gale this time dabbed a grubber through with his weaker left foot, Holmes benefiting.
Improving each score, the dominant hosts – with Liam Watts and Alex Foster again laying the platform up front – were 18-0 ahead after just 25 minutes.
Woeful Catalans did not have a serious attack of note until the half-hour mark and even then, when David Mead made a half-break, he passed back blindly to Castleford stand-off Benny Roberts.
Gale slotted a drop-goal for good measure, a sensible option given Castleford’s habit this term of switching off in the second period.
However, there was no such dramas here, Powell’s side impressively holding firm throughout to leave them in fine fettle ahead of Friday’s trip to Wigan Warriors.
McShane added his second in the 46th minute with a sublime effort, Milner with the soft and quick hands as his hooker wrapped on a runaround before darting through an alarming gap.
In the next set, Shenton did likewise to furnish Jame Clare – in for the injured Greg Eden – before Joe Wardle scored his first try for the club, Holmes got his second and Gale finished with six goals.
Castleford Tigers: Trueman; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Clare; Roberts, Gale; Massey, McShane, Watts, Holmes, Wardle, Foster. Substitutes: Millington, McMeeken, Milner, Cook.
Catalans Dragons: Tierney; Broughton, Thornley, Mead, Yaha; Langi, Gigot; Simon, McIlorum, Moa, Julien, Garcia, Baitieri. Substitutes: Casty, Bousquet, Margalet, Da Costa.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (Wigan).