TERRY Matterson has hailed the debut performance of the latest star in the making to come from the Castleford Tigers Academy production line.
Fryston junior Daryl Clark (pictured) had already impressed in pre-season games for the first team, but made his senior competitive debut against Huddersfield Giants on Saturday when he came on as a second half substitute in his favoured position of hooker.
The 17-year-old, recently named in the England Academy squad, caught the eye again with some scampering runs from first receiver, but also impressed his coach with his developing all-round game.
Matterson told the Express: “I was really pleased with Daryl Clark.
“He only came in on the day of the game, but I had no dramas in picking him whereas in previous seasons I would have gone with another forward and used Stuart Jones at hooker.
“I know about the talent Daryl’s got, but not only did he make some good runs from dummy half - which we know he can do - defensively he was also really strong. They tried to pick him out, but he handled everything they threw at him.
“It was a really, really good debut. It’s a great start for him and he’s only 17.
“He’s got a lot of talent, but there’s some areas of his game he’s got to work really hard on, it’s a specialist position at hooker.
“I wouldn’t want to put too much pressure on him this early in his career by saying what he can go on to achieve, but he’s an exciting talent.
“We’re much stronger at hooker now. Adam Milner’s not much older than Daryl, but he’s playing like a seasonal pro at the moment and the team’s got a lot of confidence in him. Ryan Hudson looked sharp in pre-season before his injury.
“It’s good to have strength in depth in the position because in the past we probably haven’t.”
Matterson had praise for the rest of his first team squad after their 18-12 win over Huddersfield in heavy conditions, particularly the pack, who he had identified as the key performers in last week’s Express.
He said: “It was a real challenge for our forwards and they matched that challenge. That was where the game was won.
“We won the forward battle and it meant that our halves could play off the front foot. They were able to control the play because of it.
“It was hard to single out individuals, but I thought our four front rowers, Paul Jackson, Craig Huby, Jake Emmitt and Jonny Walker, were great and Stuart Jones was outstanding at the back of the scrum. Jackson played 70 minutes and was also outstanding.
“From one to 17 everyone contributed - for instance Richie Mathers with his try saving tackle on David Faiumu and Daryl Clark’s impact off the bench, which was really good.
“We gave an improved performance on the week before and that’s what we’re looking for.
“Certainly our goal-line defence and our whole defence right throughout the game was a big improvement. I felt our kicking game contributed towards that because we were playing the game at the right end of the field.
“We knew we had to defend better than the week before because the team we were playing had stated their intentions at Cardiff. They’re a big strong pack and any team that can leave guys like Andy Raleigh, Larne Patrick and Danny Kirmond out are doing all right.
“But for us to have players like Nick Fozzard, Ryan Hudson, Richard Owen, Ryan McGoldrick and Steve Snitch all on the sidelines and come up with that performance is pretty good.”
Tactically, the Tigers adapted better to the conditions than their opponents and the coach was delighted with the way they carried out the game plan.
Matterson explained: “We trained to play a certain way and then we adapted it when conditions were that bad. We tightened things up and the players took the plan out onto the field.
“I don’t think we could have done that last year. Certainly Danny Orr has taken a lot of pressure off Rangi Chase and those two are really complimenting each other. There’s a lot of confidence in the team as well.”
The Giants victory gave Castleford their first back to back winning start to Super League since 2003, but Matterson is not going to let anyone get carried away this early in the season.
He added: “It’s pleasing to be top of the table, but we’re not kidding ourselves, it’s two games in and it’s going to change this week because we don’t play.
“We’ve won two from two, that’s more important than where we’re sitting in the table at the moment
“We’ve got some things to work on and we know we’re coming up against a pretty good team next week. We can have a look at them play this week and make sure we can get over our bumps and bruises because it was a very physical game.
“But we’re certainly pleased with the way we’ve improved from the trial against Hull. We feel we’ve got better each game.
“I’m not sure how many of the injured players will be back for the Hull KR game, but we’ll make sure they are 100 per cent fit before they return.
“That’s the key this year. In previous years we have put them out there 90-95 per cent fit, but we want everyone 100 per cent fit this year and we’ll give them the opportunity to do that.”