AT TIMES yesterday, sublime Castleford Tigers looked like they were playing a whole different ball game to anyone else in Super League.
With their ruthless precision, an ability to hurt their opponents either through sheer brawn or brain, mixed in with some brilliant kicking and so much obvious confidence, it was easy to see why they top the competition.
They led 36-12 against Wakefield Trinity at half-time and, quite conceivably, could have been even further in front against a side who had won five of their last six games, too.
Admittedly, Castleford could not maintain that rate of scoring as their derby rivals responded well in the second period, cutting out the errors and finding extra steel in their defence.
But, with Benny Roberts and Luke Gale running the show at half-back, and Grant Millington and Jake Webster both grabbing try-doubles, it is Tigers who head into Easter Monday’s trip to St Helens in buoyant mood.
That said, head coach Daryl Powell is still demanding more.
“At half-time, we were obviously well in front,” he said.
“We scored some smart tries and defended with real intent.
“We wanted to come up with a tidy second half, but it just didn’t happen.
“We made too many errors in that second half.
The disappointment was that we didn’t go on with it how I would have liked us to, but ultimately it’s about getting the two points and I’ve got to be happy with that.Castleford Tigers’ head coach, Daryl Powell.
“The disappointment was that we didn’t go on with it how I would have liked us to, but ultimately it’s about getting the two points and I’ve got to be happy with that.”
It was their sixth successive win over Wakefield and each time they have scored more than 40 points.
Andy Lynch, meanwhile, made his 440th Super League appearance to move clear in second in the all-time list with only Kevin Sinfield (454) above him.
Wakefield actually took the lead inside three minutes but very little else went right for them.
They had seen Bill Tupou taken off for a concussion test after just 90 seconds following a high tackle from Roberts.
When Castleford allowed Williams’s high kick to bounce, though, it fell to David Fifita and there was never going to be any chance of stopping the giant prop from 15m out.
Sam Williams converted but Tigers capitalised while centre Tupou was being assessed, scoring twice down the Australian’s left edge.
Former Kiwi stand-off Roberts produced a lovely runaround with Mike McMeeken before accelerating over from 20m out and – after Scott Grix’s restart sailed dead – it was the gifted stand-off’s ‘no-look’ flat pass that sent Webster surging through for his first.
After Gale’s 40/20, Trinity’s defence close to their line disintegrated once more as the England scrum-half slipped Oli Holmes through who proved too strong for Williams.
Gale slotted the third of his seven conversions and his side went up another gear with the arrival of thunderous props Jesse Sene-Lefao and Junior Moors off the bench.
The NRL recruits were punishing up the middle, busting tackles and making offloads at will. Moors sucked in defenders for Millington to shrug off more feeble tackling for his first in the 27th minute.
Soon after, Tupou pinched a high Williams kick from in front of Zak Hardaker’s nose to offer Trinity hope, Williams improving again, but it proved only brief respite from the onslaught.
Millington stepped over for his second after a lovely inside ball from Gale exposed confused defence once more and it was the England scrum-half who dummied his way through in the next set to send Webster in again, converting his own score for that 36-12 interval lead.
Fifita scored his second in the 54th minute as Wakefield halted the slide and started completing their sets but smart handling soon saw Super League’s leading tryscorer Greg Eden go over for his 12th of the year.
There was still time for Trinity winger Ben Jones-Bishop to dive over with a one-handed finish that Liam Finn improved but his side, who host Wigan on Monday, were well beaten here.
Roberts, the 31-year-old who suffered a wretched season with injuries last term, stood out once more and Powell said: “He is very good with some of the things he’s doing.
“He’s strong, quick and really elusive while he’s been excellent for the last three or four weeks now so he can be real pleased with himself.
“We are a well-balanced team now with a threat on both edges.”
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Monaghan, Webster, Minikin, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Lynch, McShane, Springer, Holmes, McMeeken, Milner. Substitutes: Chase, Sene-Lefao, Moors, Millington.
Wakefield Trinity: Grix; Jones-Bishop, Arundel, Tupou, Johnstone; Miller, Williams; Fifita, Wood, Allgood, Ashurst, Kirmond, Arona. Substitutes: Finn, Hadley, Huby, England.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)