Greg Eden scored two tries as Castleford opened the 2019 Super League season with a hard-fought 20-4 victory over Catalans Dragons.
The Tigers were rocked in pre-season by the loss of key half-back Luke Gale to a serious injury but they showed they have enough quality to mount another title bid in a professional round-one display.
Paul McShane has established himself as one of the competition’s best hookers and he guided Castleford brilliantly in Gale’s absence, scoring the opening try and finishing with four goals.
The Mend-A-Hose Jungle has not been a happy hunting ground for the Dragons and they had only Lewis Tierney’s try to show for their efforts as their winless run at Castleford stretched to eight games.
Catalans had new boys Sam Tomkins, Matty Smith and Matt Whitley in their line-up as they aim to have a serious crack at Super League following their Challenge Cup success in 2018.
Tomkins is a player opposition fans love to hate and he did his best to silence the boo boys early on with a try-saving tackle on Eden.
While the former Wigan full-back is a dependable defender, he is expected to add another dimension to the Dragons’ attack and he almost laid on the opening try for Tierney with a well-weighted grubber kick.
Tierney was denied in the corner by a superb tackle from Greg Minikin and it proved to be a big moment as McShane put Castleford ahead after 12 minutes with a classic hooker’s try, brushing off Samisoni Langi after spotting a gap from dummy half.
McShane added the extras to make it 6-0 but the Dragons had shown enough in the opening exchanges to suggest there would be no repeat of their two heavy defeats at the same ground last year.
For all their possession deep in Castleford’s half, they could find no way through the Tigers’ impressive goal-line defence and their frustrations boiled over at the other end.
The French side were penalised for holding down in the tackle and McShane knocked over a simple penalty to stretch Castleford’s lead.
The Tigers were back on the front foot and landed another blow on Catalans before the break as Eden defied the heavy conditions to finish in the corner after quick hands from Peter Mata’utia and Michael Shenton.
McShane missed the conversion from out wide but he made no mistake just after the restart when the Dragons were penalised for obstruction.
Castleford went in search of a decisive score but Catalans survived the pressure and gave themselves hope when Kenny Edwards put Tierney over out wide.
Tomkins was unable to make a further dent in Castleford’s lead from the tee and the game was gone when Eden brilliantly denied Langi close to the line.
The prolific winger put the result beyond any doubt with another smart finish in the corner and McShane fittingly completed the scoring with a touchline conversion.
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