A number of pundits had predicted Catalans to overturn Castleford on Friday night after two very different off-seasons. Whilst the Dragons had recruited the likes of Sam Tomkins and Matty Smith, the Tigers had added just Jordan Rankin to their roster with Jake Webster and Jy Hitchcox amongst those leaving. The Tigers had also lost talismanic halfback Luke Gale to a season-ending injury. A team thought by many to finish below Catalans in the Super League table, Castleford looked they would beat the Dragons from the first minute.

Superb defence

The contrast of the defensive display in round one in 2019 to that in 2018 could not have been greater. Whereas last year, Castleford conceded 46 points to a red-hot St Helens side, this season a professional and assured performance kept the Challenge Cup holders to just one try after back-to-back penalties had piggybacked the visitors up the field.

The attitude of the Castleford defence was set when the home side kept the Dragons out despite the French side having four consecutive sets on the Castleford line in the first-half.

Even when the Tigers conceded their only try in the final quarter of the game, they didn't panic and killed off the game with Greg Eden's second shortly from the end. The Tigers players looked like they wanted to defend and two brilliant tackles in either half - the first by Greg Minikin on Lewis Tierney when the latter looked set to score and the second by Jake Trueman on Samisoni Langi - summed up the desire of the home side to protect their line.

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Super League Rugby

Paul McShane

If ever there was a player in Super League that deserves a shot in an England jersey then it's Paul McShane. The livewire hooker stepped up magnificently in 2018 and somehow appears to be improving each year. With Luke Gale's injury, McShane has been given the kicking duties and converted four from five attempts on Friday night. The No.9 also crossed the whitewash, taking his haul for the night to 12 - over half of the points that the Tigers scored. To cap his performance off, McShane won the sponsors' man-of-the-match on the night, which will surely be the first of many.

Watts improving

When the Tigers signed Liam Watts midway through 2018, it was considered a coup. Despite having off-field problems, Watts was still one of the most formidable prop forwards in the top flight. Yet, he never seemed to really find his feet last season and appeared to have lost that aggressive side which had been so destructive. On Friday night, however, Watts was head and shoulders above the rest in both forward packs.

The statistics from Friday night say it all; Watts made 181 metres - the most on the field - six tackle busts, 43 tackles and four offloads. Although appearing to pick up a knock in the second half, the prop carried on and played around an hour before being taken off. It was a devastating stint and, despite the size of their pack, the Catalans' defence struggled to live with his bulldozing runs.

Taking chances

Though the scoreline suggests the Tigers had the bulk of the possession and territory, it was the visitors who had the ball in the most dangerous positions for the longest periods.

Yet, when Castleford got near the Catalans' line, they looked like scoring and two fantastic finishes by Greg Eden and a smart try by McShane epitomised the Tigers' ruthlessness. Despite the weather, Castleford threw the ball around like everyone knows they can with fullback Peter Mata'utia having a great game and halfbacks Jake Trueman and Jordan Rankin taking control.

Things to work on

As always in the first game of the season, nothing is perfect and there are things to improve on. The indiscipline from the Tigers was worrying - they conceded 11 penalties - but many of the infringements looked dubious, to say the least, with referee James Child halting the flow of the game quite frequently. The Tigers also made a few errors, with both Eden and Mata'utia dropping the ball with little pressure on them.

The reduction of the number of substitutes also appeared to make head coach Daryl Powell more conservative in his team and substitution selections. Mitch Clark wasn't even in the 17, despite being one of Castleford's most impressive forwards in 2018, whilst Matt Cook was only introduced with less than 20 minutes remaining. Liam Watts - though impressive - was evidently tired and injured before finally being substituted around the hour mark.

Hull FC beckon on Thursday night for the Tigers - a team that Castleford have won just two of their last six against.

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