THERE was never any doubt Castleford would lift the Paul Higgins Trophy given the two sides on show in yesterday’s memorial friendly at The Jungle, but York City Knights could take lots from it too, despite the 62-6 scoreline.
These games usually involve the part-time club fielding a strong side and the full-time outfit a young team of fringe players, making for a more even contest. Here, it was the other way round.
Early home tries duly brought fears of a landslide but one thing Gary Thornton’s young charges did show was heart and, despite facing what was ostensibly a Super League line-up, they stemmed the tide – at least until a late barrage made for an unflattering scoreline – and were generally solid in possession.
The heavy going underfoot following the recent rains slowed Cas down at times but it made life harder for the Knights too, given the amount of defending they were always going to do.
Unsurprisingly, they were blowing a bit in what was their first hit-out of pre-season but they never stopped pushing themselves, at one point keeping Cas scoreless for 29 minutes of even exchanges.
Among probable first-teamers omitted by Cas were Kirk Dixon, Michael Shenton, Jake Webster, Adam Milner, Luke Dorn, Lee Gilmour and one-time York loanee Nathan Massey, but, with seven new signings on show, including Brett Seymour, Andy Lynch and Ireland World Cup captain Liam Finn, the Tigers fielded a strong line-up.
The only so-called fringe players in their 21-man party – those who may be candidates for dual-registration with the Knights – were subs Jordan Howden, Will Maher, Brad Day and, giving the most eye-catching display, full-back Ben Reynolds.
York, conversely, were missing a host of likely first-choices, including key signings Iain Morrison and Lee Paterson, skipper Jack Lee, player/assistant-boss James Ford, Jason Golden, Nathan Freer, Ed Smith and Jack Aldous.
Only Jonny Presley had any real experience, though James Haynes added some knowhow at full-back, glad to be back in the semi-pro arena after his time in the amateur game.
Right-winger Richard Owen got Cas off the mark in their first attack with a simple touchdown in the corner after the defence was dragged inside.
Justin Carney got the second – after Curtis Macdonald marred a decent outing by flapping under a kick to the other corner – and the third, following a penalty close to York’s line.
Craig Huby scored from close range, again following an interjection by referee Andy Sweet, and it was 20-0 midway through the first half.
Local ref Sweet didn’t always let the game flow, whistling a harsh 6-1 penalty count in the first half.
Carney completed a hat-trick, before the Knights got on the board with a superb solo try by Kriss Brining direct from a scrum. Benn Hardcastle, who showed glimpses of a decent kicking game, converted for a 26-6 interval scoreline.
Well-timed crunching tackles on Frankie Mariano and former Knight Jordan Tansey by Greg Minikin and Ben Dent, who both again impressed, provided other first-half highlights for the visitors.
Brining also brought his usual spark off the bench and Jake Joynt had several good hit-ups, even though Cas’s pack were on top.
Having scored five tries in 29 minutes, it took another 29 for Cas to get their next, Marc Sneyd finishing a good break.
He crossed again to punish a loose Knights pass, to add to his nine conversions, and, as Cas went up a gear, late tries were added by James Clare, Daryl Clark, Reynolds and Grant Millington.
Cas: Tansey, Owen, Channing, Carney, Clare, Sneyd, Finn, Fleming, Clark, Wheeldon, Mariano, Martin, Millington. Subs: Lynch, Huby, Holmes, Reynolds, Seymour, Howden, Maher, Day.
Knights: Haynes, MacDonald, Rogers, Minikin, Dent, B Hardcastle, Presley, Bell, P Smith, Joynt, Mallinder, Crowe, Pickles. Subs: Brining, Iley, Stubbs, Orange, Backhouse, L Hardcastle, Nathaniel, Pickerill.