MOST teams can only dream about having the luxury of a player as gifted as Rangi Chase sat on the bench.
Sublime Castleford Tigers can, however, predominantly because they have a certain Benny Roberts to call upon, too.
The rampant leaders strengthened their position at the top of Super League last night with another classy destruction, this time of hapless Huddersfield Giants.
England scrum-half Luke Gale led the way with a second-half hat-trick on his 250th career appearance, something Joel Monaghan replicated in the dying moments, but it was Gale’s half-back partner Roberts who arguably impressed most.
His mesmerising footwork, upper body strength when swatting off defenders, acceleration and kicking game were all to the fore especially as Daryl Powell’s side overcame a slow start to build a 16-4 interval lead.
The 31-year-old Samoa international had to bide his time at the start of the season, behind the more acclaimed Chase who, of course, is a former Man of Steel and general crowd favourite at Wheldon Road.
However, after Chase was dropped for an off-field misdemeanour, Powell warned it might equally take him some time to regain his spot.
Roberts, with all his skill and creativity, is certainly ensuring the former England star does not walk back into this brilliant side who head to champions Wigan next Thursday having now won six from seven matches so far. Chase was recalled after a three-game absence against Catalans Dragons last Sunday and got a brief stint from the bench.
Last night he managed around 18 minutes although, admittedly, he came up with the play of the game, if not the season.
Teasing the Giants defence, he rolled the ball around his back, feigned to dummy, dropped his shoulder and then produced another beguiling movement before sending Monaghan infield to score untouched by the befuddled opponents.
Woeful Huddersfield, badly missing the suspended Danny Brough’s organisation, are now five games without a win.
Castleford were 16-4 ahead at the break but, realistically, should have doubled that points total in the first period alone.
Greg Eden has enjoyed a fine start to the season – and his second stint as a Tigers player – with 10 tries as Super League’s top scorer heading into this contest.
However, the former Huddersfield winger bombed a raft of chances in the first half, dropping one gilt-edged Gale pass which would have seen him over and spilling another more difficult assist from his scrum-half.
He then found himself one-on-one with Giants full-back Darnell McIntosh after a glorious handling move, the best of the match, splintered the visitors from deep.
Yet Eden attempted an ambitious chip which merely headed straight to the Giants youngster, who impressed in only his third Super League appearance.
That said, Castleford were still in control, Roberts having scored their opening try in the 20th minute after latching onto Gale’s smart grubber.
When Lee Gaskell fired the restart dead, Powell’s side were in immediately again.
This time Roberts bamboozled Giants with his footwork and found enough space to send Jake Webster, the veteran Kiwi centre, charging over from close range for a 10-4 lead.
All Huddersfield’s early promise was undone; they had started brightly, especially their forceful forwards Sebastine Ikahihifo and Ukuma Ta’ai who quickly made sure Castleford’s pack knew they would be in for a battle.
Indeed, from Ikahihifo’s thunderous charge and offload, Ryan Hinchcliffe stretched over for the night’s first try in the seventh minute. With the home side initially struggling for their usual efficiency, Rick Stone’s side should have made more of their gains.
They did not and, though at first effectively shutting down Hardaker’s link play, once Castleford did get in front, this derby was only heading one way.
Mike McMeeken was the beneficiary as they crossed for a third try in just eight minutes although the artful Paul McShane was clearly the instigator.
Pressed on Huddersfield’s line on the last tackle, everything was set for Gale to kick – two blockers in place, chasers ready – only for McShane to switch in the opposite direction where the big second-row bullied his way over.
When Giants finally got some ball, a nonsensical first tackle offload from Ta’ai on Castleford’s 20 merely served to find an opponent player. Wasted.
Powell’s side scored within seconds of the second period starting, Michael Shenton breaking to set Eden away from deep for Gale to pick up the first of his treble.
They scored back-to-back tries again as Adam Milner – excellent at loose forward – quickly dummied his way over.
Although Ryan Brierley raced 90m direct from a scrum to score for Huddersfield it was only the briefest of respite as Webster stormed through to give Gale his second and then showed deft hands to lay on Monaghan’s first. Soon after, Gale completed his hat-trick before Chase’s genius moment delivered Monaghan’s second.
Gaskell got on the end of Brierley’s grubber for a consolation try that Brierley converted again but Monaghan had the last word with another assist from Chase.
Oli Holmes made his first appearance of the season for Castleford, who head to champions Wigan on Thursday and did lose Junior Moors to injury.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Monaghan, Webster, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Sene-Lefao, McShane, Moors, Millington, McMeeken, Milner. Substitutes: Cook, Springer, Chase, Holmes.
Huddersfield Giants: McIntosh; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Mellor, Ormsby; Gaskell, Brierley; Ikahihifo, Hinchcliffe, Wakeman, Ta’ai, Ferguson, Clough. Substitutes: Rapira, Leeming, Smith, Dickinson.
Referee: C Kendall (RFL).