WHILE stopping short of saying it was the best performance since he took over Castleford Tigers boss, Ian Millward was understandably delighted with his side’s 52-6 hammering of Huddersfield Giants on Sunday.
The Tigers’ biggest margin win of the season came against a side that were in the top four and have been in the top eight all year and was achieved despite eight absent first teamers.
It was also in stark contrast to recent away performances with head coach Millward (pictured) able to reflect on what the players got so right on this occasion.
He said: “Keep in mind we had eight players out. I can rattle them off, Dixon, Chase, Arundel, Oliver Holmes, Rhys Williams, Ferres, Walker, Daryl Clark. Don’t take light this performance, it’s taken a fair bit of guts and attitude with so many players out.
“I’ve coached some great teams, but whenever you have eight out it becomes very tough. So what they have done against Huddersfield is fantastic.
“I think everyone did their job. There were some great performances and if I gave a rating out of ten I don’t think there’d be any players below a seven.
“That’s why we won, 17 players played well and that was the important part. I wouldn’t like to single anyone out because it wouldn’t be fair to someone who’s made some great actions.
“For the tries we had to work as a unit and it took a lot.”
Millward highlighted areas of the team where he saw most improvement.
He said: “I’ve said all along that what we’ve lacked is an inability to hold the ball. If you look at the Widnes game we had a 60 per cent completion in the first half and 30 per cent in the second half, this time we had 90 per cent and 88.
“We’re not the best team in the league so what we need to do is to retain possession. With this you give the opposition the ball back when you are in a more dominant position to defend.
“Our kicking game with Jamie Ellis and Danny Orr was outstanding and combined with the high completion rate you are definitely going to be in the game for the majority of it
“We got what we deserved – a comprehensive win – and because we were doing a less defending near our line we were a lot stronger defensively. We only conceded one try and that was from a kick. It was a pretty dominant performance.
“It’s the first time in my coaching career that I’ve gone for two points as we did early in the second half with the penalties. I’ve normally gone more aggressively in those positions, but I just thought that they we just needed to keep the clock ticking after half-time and get some points that would keep giving the guys some confidence. That’s how it worked out.
“The players enjoyed themselves because of the work they did to put them in a position to be more positive out on the field.
“I thought the surface was outstanding as well considering the weather we’ve had. Luppy, our groundsman, did a fantastic job. I couldn’t believe how good it was and that helped.
“I think if you are a Cas fan you’d be pretty happy with the performance and very excited.”
Millward reminded everyone that the Tigers had produced some good performances earlier in the season so although the margin of victory over the Giants was a surprise the fact that they had beaten them should not have been.
He added: “I thought we were outstanding against Wakefield, we played well against Hull KR and our first game away at Salford was a tough start at their new stadium and we played well. If you look at those games we did well with the ball, had high completion rates and gave ourselves an opportunity as we did against Huddersfield.
“There’s certain criteria to win a game, one is you’ve got to be tough in the middle, two is you’ve not got to give up metres defensively. You’ve got to be good defensively, you’ve got to hold the ball and have a good kicking game.
“We can come up with plays and structures and all that, but unless we do that we don’t get to perform them regularly. Against Huddersfield we got to perform them regularly.
“I think our pack was really solid as it has been over the last few weeks. Defensively it’s been tough, but we haven’t had the ball and with the lack of ball we lose field position and then we’ve been vulnerable on the edge. Everyone knows that, I’m not hiding any secrets, but our pack’s been really strong.”