WHO SAYS Castleford Tigers cannot deliver a second-half performance?
Daryl Powell’s side have become renowned this term for falling away in the second 40, putting their tense supporters under far too much unnecessary pressure.
The only person coming under pressure this morning, though, is Steve McNamara after his shambolic Catalans Dragons side produced arguably their worst performance yet.
Castleford had built up a 19-0 interval lead and, on recent displays, fans could have been forgiven for thinking that still might not be enough to secure victory.
However, their woeful French visitors were so turgid – careless handling errors, lacklustre defence, stupid penalties – the hosts were able to comfortably ease home to record their biggest-ever win against Super League’s bottom team.
Castleford have now won seven of their last eight games, building up nicely towards Friday’s next appointment at Wigan Warriors.
Luke Gale returned from injury yesterday to lead the destruction.
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 Catalans who clearly badly missed the presence of injured duo Greg Bird and Paul Aiton.
Hooker Paul McShane and second-row Oli Holmes both scored braces but the reigning Man of Steel Gale was the architect.
All three of their first-half tries came 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 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, Oli Holmes benefitting.
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.
The erring visitors saw Papuan full-back Mead – playing centre yesterday – limp off soon after to further compound their problems. Even experienced captain Remi Casty, who last week broke Catalans’ club appearance record and played his 275th game here, is getting dragged down with them.
His daft offload was mopped up by Adam Milner to provide Gale with the chance to slot a drop-goal just before the break.
Given that recent Castleford habit of switching off in the second period – they have fallen away badly against Leeds, Salford and Huddersfield but still hung on – it seemed a sensible option.
However, at last, Powell’s side managed to put together a comfortable second 40 minutes as well. 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 showed his own creative skill with a swift pass for James Clare – in for the injured Greg Eden – to claim another and, with Gale maintaining his 100 per cent record, a 31-0 lead immediately ended any feint hopes of a French fightback.
Before the end, second-row Joe Wardle scored his first try in Castleford colours and Holmes got his second to round off an impressive afternoon.
In all honesty, though, that was never likely; Catalans have not won at Wheldon Road since 2012 and you wonder where their next win anywhere might come from.
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)