ENGLAND FORWARD Adam Milner believes Castleford Tigers have put down a marker, but insists they will get better as the season goes on.
Last year’s third-placed finishers kicked off their new Betfred Super League campaign with a hard-fought 20-4 home win over Challenge Cup holders Catalans Dragons.
In tricky conditions Tigers could not get their attacking game into top gear, but defended solidly throughout and Milner said the round one win and performance will send them into Thursday’s game at Hull in good heart.
“You never know where you’re at, first game of the year, but I think we’ve set a pretty decent marker down there,” said the loose-forward.
“We were up against a decent Catalans side, they are a big, physical set and we showed we can match it with them.”
Tigers were under pressure for much of the first half, but their defence was in mean mood and conceded only one try midway through the final quarter.
You never know where you’re at, first game of the year, but I think we’ve set a pretty decent marker down there.Adam Milner
Milner felt that was the most encouraging aspect of last week’s opener.
He said: “We were on the wrong side of the penalty count and the amount of time we were scrambling and defending our line was really impressive and to keep them to four points was a good start defensively for us.
“We are known as a good offensive team, but it’s the other side of it that was pleasing.
“We have worked a lot in pre-season on our defence, we want to be the best in that area and we have definitely put a foot in the right direction with the defensive performance.”
A key objective for Tigers early in the year is to prove they can play well and win without star half-back Luke Gale.
He is set to miss the entire season after suffering an Achilles injury in training a month ago.
Milner insisted Tigers have enough quality to plug the gap and reckons the adversity will give them extra motivation.
“Macca [Paul McShane] was fantastic,” Milner said of Tigers’ hooker who scored the opening try and kicked four goals from five attempts against Catalans.
“Jordan Rankin was also impressive.
“We missed Galey for the majority of last year and he is a massive loss for us, but I always go back to 2016 – the year before we got to the Grand Final.
“We were down on numbers then and we ended up having a half-decent season.
“It just shows no matter who comes in in any position they are willing to put their hand up and do a job.”
Rankin, a late-season signing from Huddersfield Giants in a swap deal which took Joe Wardle the other way, was Tigers’ only debutant against Catalans.
The utility-back started alongside 2018 Super League young player of the year Jake Trueman in the halves and according to Milner, that is a winning combination.
He said: “Jordan did a good job.
“I think he is enjoying it.
“He came straight into it in Lanzarote [on a pre-season camp] and he has fitted straight in.
“I think he’s one who, with a few more games under his belt, will come to grips with how we play and a full understanding of what we do in attack.
“He defended well and it was a really positive start for us.”