Castleford 44 Leigh 16

Castleford Tigers' Junior Moors(right) is tackled by Leigh Centurions' Eloi Pelissier
Castleford Tigers' Junior Moors(right) is tackled by Leigh Centurions' Eloi Pelissier

Luke Gale racked up 24 points as Castleford hit the ground running in their season opener and gave Leigh a rude awakening on their return to Super League.

The Tigers, seen by many as dark horses for the title, were in imperious form at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle, running in seven tries to three in a 44-16 rout of the Centurions, who were given an early insight into the harsh reality of life in the top flight after a 12-year absence.

Castleford Tigers' Zak Hardaker tries to break free from the Leigh Centurions' defence

Castleford Tigers' Zak Hardaker tries to break free from the Leigh Centurions' defence

Castleford certainly made light of the absence of winger Denny Solomona, who scored a Super League record 40 tries in 2016 before quitting the club for rugby union, with replacement Greg Eden opening his account on his return to the club and fellow winger Greg Minikin scoring twice.

Even the loss of former Leigh stand-off Rangi Chase, who was roundly booed by the 1,000-strong visiting fans, with, appropriately a pain in the neck before half-time, did not adversely affect the Tigers as Ben Roberts slotted effortlessly back into the role on his return from a lengthy injury lay-off.

Castleford coach Daryl Powell had told his players to expect “fire and brimstone” from their opponents and the league new boys were full of passion from the kick-off.

The Tigers withstood the Centurions’ early onslaught, though, and gradually seized control of the game, with substitute Grant Millington displaying his clever ball-handling skills to create two tries in five minutes midway through the first half.

Castleford Tigers' Ben Roberts is brought down during the Super League match at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, Castleford

Castleford Tigers' Ben Roberts is brought down during the Super League match at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, Castleford

Gale was the first beneficiary, opening the scoring in the 19th minute, and second rower Jesse Sene-Lefao took another Millington offload to romp through a gap in the visitors’ defence.

Initially pressing down Leigh’s right, the Tigers switched their point of attack to the left and found even greater joy, with Minikin going over for two tries in the last 10 minutes of the first half, the second time following a barnstorming run from his centre Jake Webster.

With Gale converting all four tries and kicking a 37th-minute penalty, Castleford had the game in the bag as they led 26-0 at half-time and it took them just 96 seconds to open their account in the second half.

Another charge from Webster created the position for substitute forward Junior Moors to stretch over for his side’s fifth try and Gale’s sixth goal made it 32-0.

Leigh full-back Ryan Hampshire, who spent the 2016 season on loan at Castleford, pulled a try back for the visitors after 46 minutes and celebrated with the fans as if they had won the Grand Final but Martyn Ridyard’s attempted conversion rebounded off an upright, further evidence that this was not the Centurions’ night.

Hampshire went from hero to villain in the 57th minute when he fumbled Gale’s high kick and the Tigers vice-captain dribbled the ball ahead to touch down for his second try.

Four minutes later skipper Michael Shenton worked Eden over for his try and Gale took his goal tally to eight from as many attempts before Leigh staged a late revival.

Winger Matty Dawson grabbed a try in the 69th minute and four minutes later forward Danny Tickle crashed over for the 100th of his career, with Ridyard adding both conversions.