Daryl Powell was right to shame Castleford Tigers in public, admits Matt Cook

THEIR attitude, character and toughness have all been publicly questioned by their own head coach and Castleford Tigers prop Matt Cook can see exactly why.

Palming off: Matt Cook, right, avoids the tackle by St Helens Morgan Knowles earlier this month in the first of two costly defeats by the Super League pacesetters. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

The crucial point now, however, is to make sure they are not left open to such attacks again.

Cook, 31, was as bemused as anyone by Castleford’s hapless display in Thursday’s abject 
40-18 home defeat by Super League leaders St Helens.

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But furious chief Daryl Powell verged on the apoplectic given the manner of a woeful performance by a team who finished top of the pile by a record margin last term and reached a first Grand Final.

It is rare that Powell has been so critical of his squad – he labelled them “soft” and claimed too many players didn’t “care” about their defensive work – in the five years since he took over at the West Yorkshire club.

However, as Castleford prepare to try to atone at Hull KR on Friday, Cook said: “He was rightly not happy with that performance.

“After a good win against Leeds at Magic Weekend the real test was to back it up and lay a marker down against the best team in the comp’ at the moment.

“But we tossed up a very poor performance and really let ourselves down.

Castleford's Matt Cook is tackled by Leeds's Ash Golding and Carl Ablett (Picture: SWPix.com)

“There is some good effort there at times, but like the boss had said we’re not being durable enough for the full 80 minutes.

“We’re not playing for the full 80 minutes and that’s where it’s really hurting us.

“We just need to pull together as a team, really stick together and work hard.

“We need to try and correct each other’s faults; only hard work and real soul-searching will help turn it around.

“We’ve got Hull KR away on Friday and that is a really big, important game.

“We need to get back to winning ways and chalking up some wins if we want to be in the top four come the end of the season.”

For one reason or another, Castleford are generally a pale shadow of the team that enthralled so many last term before eventually losing to Leeds at Old Trafford.

Powell had instilled pride in the Tigers jersey once more and they had become just as formidable with their defence as they had in attack, but, alarmingly, he claimed they do not have ‘high standards’ any more with the former.

Asked if he was right to question that, Cook insisted: “He was on Thursday. Definitely. We’ve had to watch that back and it hurts even more. To go from the best defensive team in the comp’ to leaking points left, right and centre at the moment….?

“Some of them are quite soft for us. We need to address it. I’ve got confidence in the boys we can.

“We have to cop it first and wear our crash helmets as we deserved a telling off. We have to put our hands up and be accountable both individually and as a team for our defensive performance and then crack on.

“We can’t dwell on it too long. We have to work hard and give our fans something to cheer.”

The worry for Castleford fans is that their players’ effort is now being brought into question, something that has not happened before under Powell’s reign.

“Yes and that should never be questioned,” added former Bradford Bulls star Cook.

“That’s what gets the boss really frustrated; he will admit himself he can probably cop a loss if the attitude is there and we’ve worked hard.

“But if he’s questioning our attitude that’s when he’s rightly not happy. And we’re not either.

“We have to step up and respond. So far this year after a horrible defeat like this – just like round one (at St Helens) – we did respond the next game.

“But it’s then staying tight again, backing up and backing up again. That’s where we’ve not quite done that.”

Castleford have slipped to fifth with a fifth loss from 14 league games and, also due to Saints, they are out of the Challenge Cup.

Rovers will be testing on Friday especially after they stunned in-form Wigan Warriors 24-8 at Craven Park at the weekend to move off the bottom of Super League.

Cook, who played for Hull KR in 2010 and 2o11, said: ““It will be a hostile environment Friday. We’ve just seen what they did to Wigan last week. They are a group of lads who work hard for each other. It’s always a hard place to go to is Craven Park.”