Things finally clicked for Castleford under Lee Radford today.
After some close calls recently and some encouraging performances, the Tigers blew neighbours Leeds away in the Challenge Cup with a 40-16 win to move into the quarter-finals.
Head Coach Lee Radford was very pleased with the performance especially the first half as the Tigers took a 28-0 lead into the break: “Really pleased with the first half, we were outstanding. Second half we spoke about scoring first and putting them to bed which didn’t happen but I thought the work we did in the first period caught them up.
“The performances over the last few weeks have looked better, Friday in particular. I think we can start to look up massively.
“Defensively our line speed was as good as it’s been and I thought our ruck control was really good. Having blokes back in who are better at it helps. There’s a reason you pay someone 25 grand a year and someone else 150 grand a year and the more 1-17s you can field throughout the year the better chance you’re going to have.
The victory sets the Tigers up for a quarter-final clash away to Hull KR as they look to go back to the final having lost to St Helens last year.
On the draw, Radford said: “I can walk to the ground, it’s fantastic. It’s brilliant, right up there, sunny East Hull, best place in the world.”
That quarter-final awaits thanks to a terrific performance from his side and he singled out a number of players for special praise including Kenny Edwards who he had a bit of a laugh about as he praised one of his key forwards who ended the game with two assists: “He was fantastic, he’s like a china bull. He’s very fragile. He’s holding every part of his body.”
However, the star player of course was Joe Westerman who picked up the Man of the Match. Radford had nothing but praise for the player he worked with at Hull FC calling him the best 13 in the league: “I was really impressed with Joe Westy. I thought he’s the best 13 in the comp and that’s no disrespect to Morgan Knowles but I thought he was right at the top of his game and he’s continued that form. He genuinely cares, he loves Castleford, he wanted to come back and try and do something. I think your Sculthorpes and Farrells, I think he’s playing that role fantastically well.”
The Tigers had another key player back today to add to the spine Westerman is so key to in the shape of Niall Evalds meaning Paul McShane could return to nine with Gareth O’Brien at seven. On this Radford said: “Yeah definitely to put that spine back. We’ve done a great job with players playing out of position but when we have that spine out on the field we look like a great side.
“I was really impressed with Niall in pre-season but he’ll probably tell you that he didn’t start the season in the form he wanted to and then picks up an injury. Hopefully this can be the start of good things to come and hopefully he can press on and make a statement for the end of the year in the World Cup.”