Time for Lee to break into a smile

MARTYN SADLER reflects on Friday night’s convincing Castleford victory against the stumbling Giants

Castleford coach Lee Radford made it clear in an interview earlier in the week that he doesn’t really like the Tigers appearing on television, largely because the cameras seem to like nothing more than seeking out coaches sitting in the stand to film their reaction when things go wrong for their team.

It’s hard to blame him. Who would like to be shown on TV scowling after your team has just conceded a try?

But on Friday night we were treated mainly to shots of Radford smiling in the vague direction of the camera as his team put the Giants to the sword.

During the 2022 season, the Tigers have been perhaps the most erratic team in Super League in terms of being able to predict their results.

But on Friday night it was the best I’ve seen them play this season by quite a significant margin.

Other than in the last five minutes of the game, when fatigue certainly took its toll, the Tigers’ defence was outstanding and their attack proved too much for a surprisingly ineffective Giants side, especially in attack, after their strong performance against Hull Kingston Rovers five days earlier.

It wasn’t that the Giants didn’t do plenty of hard work. They were ahead of the Tigers in terms of several key playing statistics.

The problem for them was that for most of the game they couldn’t breach the Tigers’ last line of defence. How many times did Giants’ players get tackled over or near to the Tigers’ line?

In the absence through injury of Ricky Leutele, Giants coach Ian Watson gave a debut to his new signing from Warrington, Toby King, whose performance perhaps lacked the incisiveness of the player he was replacing, while his fellow centre Leroy Cudjoe, who had scored three tries against Hull Kingston Rovers, was much more restrained by the Tigers’ defence on Friday night.

For the Tigers, Greg Eden was called up late into the matchday squad to replace Niall Evalds, who had been taken ill, at fullback and as almost always Eden didn’t let his side down.

It’s odd to think of the embarrassment of riches that Radford has on the wing these days, with Bureta Faraimo and Derrell Olpherts starting on Friday night, while Eden and Jason Qareqare, who are both highly capable, wait in the wings, with James Clare and Sosaia Feki also both available if required. He does seem to have a strangely unbalanced squad.

One player who is back in the fold is Danny Richardson, who is making a strong case for a new contract. Radford seemed undecided about that in the press interviews in the week leading up to the game but after Richardson’s solid display on Friday night, which included a well-struck 40-20, he must surely be getting nearer to deciding that he would like the former St Helens scrum-half to stay at the Jungle, especially as he will be losing Jake Trueman to Hull FC.

Trueman seems to fully over the back problem that wreaked havoc with his 2021 season and on Friday he seemed to relish taking on the Huddersfield defence.

He created the Tigers’ first try for Olpherts on eight minutes and then scored a superb individual try of his own, stepping Tui Lolohea easily, to put the Tigers 12-0 up after 16 minutes.

The strange thing was that the first seven minutes of the game had been dominated by the Giants, who by that stage had forced two goal-line drop-outs and a set restart.

But when Danny Levi spilled the ball from dummy-half with the active encouragement of Kenny Edwards, who seemed to relish playing against his own club, it gave and opening to Trueman, who took it with great enthusiasm to put Olpherts in for his try.

If that ball hadn’t been dropped, who knows what might have happened. But games sometimes turn on very small incidents. It put the Giants on the back foot and they never really recovered to be able to challenge their hosts.

Having said that, they did score one of the best tries of the match through that old warhorse Jermaine McGillvary, who caught Pryce’s kick to the corner and was strong enough to score despite a very strong challenge from Olpherts as he went in at the corner.

It’s hardly surprising that many pundits would like McGillvary to reconsider his decision to retire from international Rugby League, despite having reached the age of 34. He still has what it takes to make a big impression.

But on Friday night the biggest impression was made by the Tigers and Lee Radford’s smiling countenance said it all.

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