Castleford Tigers 52 Leigh Centurions 16 - Hosts score nine tries in Leigh rout
CASTLEFORD TIGERS made sure their return to home soil was worth the wait as they produced a dominant and entertaining display to run in nine tries against a despondent Leigh Centurions.
In their first home outing for 197 days, Daryl Powell’s side scored tries from all areas of the pitch and showed resolute defence in a complete performance.
In the build-up to the contest, the Tigers insisted they were in no mood to start slowly, after a sluggish first half against Hull KR almost cost them a place in the Challenge Cup quarter-final last week.
They were true to their word, running in six tries before the half-time hooter while keeping Leigh – who are now without a win in four competitive games in 2021 – out at the other end.
It is now three wins from three in Super League for Castleford, who seem to have put the ghosts of a disappointing 2020 season well and truly behind them.
The victory was Castleford’s first at their own ground since an impressive win over St Helens on March 15, 2020.
Prior to last night’s victory, a defeat to Hull in October is the only time they have appeared at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle in the last 13 months.
The Tigers were made to work hard for wins over Warrington Wolves and Leeds Rhinos in rounds one and two but made things look easy on Friday evening with some scintillating tries as they played like the side that breezed to the League Leaders’ Shield in 2017.
The hosts took the lead after just five minutes when Liam Watts ran onto a short ball from Nathan Massey at speed to burst through a gap and race over by the uprights.
A few errors from Castleford in their own 20-metre area gave Leigh some good field position to try and pierce the Tigers’ line but the hosts held out and after a 15th-minute try from Daniel Smith, there looked like no way back for the visitors.
The forward gathered a fantastic pass from Paul McShane to nip between two defenders and squeeze over by the posts.
Derrell Olpherts extended the lead soon after as he dived over in the corner after a looping pass from Niall Evalds before Leigh’s best chance of the half came and went in an instant as
Ben Hellewell opted to go for the line himself despite having a man free on his outside.
Greg Eden marked his first Super League appearance of the campaign with a try as he scampered down the touchline following a smart pass from McShane.
Moments later, Grant Millington broke and had options left and right before giving it to Evalds on his inside as the full-back strode over for his third try in as many games since joining the Tigers.
The Centurions exerted some pressure late on but Castleford had found it easy to advance up field and the half ended with Michael Shenton handing off a defender with ease to plant down in the left corner.
In 2017, the Tigers beat Leigh 44-16 and 38-0 in the side’s only previous meetings in the Super League era and they inflicted more punishment on the visitors just four minutes into the second half.
Evalds was held near the line but offloaded to Jordan Turner who only needed to fall over the whitewash for the hosts’ seventh try of the evening – and his fourth of the campaign.
Leigh did get themselves on the board just before the 50-minute mark when Jordan Thompson forced his way over from close range.
The Tigers had Jesse Sene-Lefao sin-binned for a late hit but that didn’t halt their momentum as Eden popped the ball to Olpherts from a 20-metre restart and the former Salford Red Devils winger strode clear to dot down between the posts.
Moments later, they hit the 50-point mark as Turner weaved through the defence to put Jake Trueman in the clear.
Ben Reynolds barged over for a consolation just after the hour but it did little to dampen the mood at Wheldon Road.
Ryan Brierley dived on a grubber kick late on for a third Leigh try but the celebrations were muted as the result had been decided by half-time.
Next week comes their biggest test of the campaign so far, when the Tigers take another side with a 100 per cent record in Wigan Warriors, who recorded a hard-fought win over Leeds Rhinos on Thursday evening.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Olpherts, Mata'utia, Shenton, Eden Trueman, O'Brien, McShane, Watts, Smith, Holmes, Sene-Lefao, Massey. Substitiues: Millington, Milner, Turner, Bienek.
Leigh Centurions: Brierley, Russell, Simm, Mullen, Tierney, Reynolds, Mellor, Hood, Hellewell, Thompson, Sidlow, Peteru. Substitutes: Flower, Bell, Gerrard, Peats.
Referee: M Griffiths.