St Helens got their Betfred Super League campaign off to a blistering start with a 46-6 destruction of a Castleford Tigers team that looked a shadow of the one that dominated the 2017 season.
England centre Mark Percival scored a hat-trick of tries and Ben Barba justified his early-season favouritism for the Man of Steel award with a man-of-the-match performance.
The Australian full-back scored two tries and helped create four others as Saints gained some revenge for last October’s heart-breaking semi-final defeat.
Saints were also indebted to half-backs Jonny Lomax and youngster Danny Richardson, whose display vindicated coach Justin Holbrook’s decision to leave out former England international Matty Smith, as they ran the Tigers ragged to leave them still looking for a first away win over their opponents since 1992.
Zeb Taia also went over twice for Saints, with Paul McShane grabbing a consolation effort for Castleford.
Castleford coach Daryl Powell described it as a “rude awakening” after the game.
“We were pretty poor,” Powell said. “I thought St Helens were excellent and put us under a lot of pressure. I knew they would challenge us, I just didn’t expect such a poor attitude from us.
“We had prepared pretty well, it was a little bit of a rude awakening. I thought our pack was appalling, we have a fair bit of work to do over the next few weeks.
“It was not up to our standards, we’ve had a smack in the chops in round one and we’ve got to respond. We’ve a long week leading into the Widnes game and they have got to come back and show a bit of toughness.
“There is no way of dressing it up. Certainly in terms of attitude, commitment and effort, it was near the bottom in my time at the club. It was hugely disappointing, they turned us over big style.”
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook could not have asked for more from his team as they went some way to avenging their heart-breaking semi-final defeat by Castleford in their last match.
“The boys were fantastic tonight,” Holbrook said. “We’re off to a great start. Obviously Castleford will be disappointed but from, our end, I couldn’t have asked for any more.”