Malcolm Elliott, the Bradford Bulls coach, could do little more than shake his head in disbelief at yesterday's 64-14 drubbing by the Auckland Warriors. The Warriors notched up their highest-ever score, with Gene Ngamu kicking a club record 12 goals and a record-equalling 28 points.
"It was a unique experience to be on the wrong end of a hiding like that," Elliott said. "We had a great week's preparation and then we went on to the field and let ourselves down on fundamentals. We lost ball, we missed tackles. We only completed one set of six tackles in the first half. And by that time the game was as good as over."
His Warriors counterpart, Frank Endacott, was just as surprised by the score. "Before the game, if anyone told us we would win by 50 points we would have told them they were mad," he said. "We were expecting to win by four to six points."
Auckland had scraped home at Odsal by just four points in the first World Club Championship meeting between the two sides six weeks ago.
Castleford were another European Super League side to succumb to their Antipodean betters yesterday, but at least the Tigers have some positive aspects to draw on following their 26-8 defeat by the Hunter Mariners.
At half-time, with the home side ahead 18-4, it looked as if Castleford would follow Warrington, Sheffield and Bradford to crushing defeats. Yet the Tigers responded vigorously and tackled with utter conviction. Until the substitute forward Tony Iro scored with 90 seconds left, the visitors had been the better side in the second half.
"The final score doesn't indicate what a hard game this was," said the Hunter half-back, Noel Goldthorpe. "They gave us a real fright after the break."
The victory - and Friday's defeats in England by the Adelaide Rams and the North Queensland Cowboys - leaves the Mariners as the only unbeaten side in the Australasian Pool B of the WCC. The winner of that group goes through to the quarter-finals.
However, the coach, Graham Murray, was unhappy with his players in a scrappy match.
"We had too many five-eighths [stand-offs]," he said. "What we needed were some players to go forward and make the Castleford defence work harder."
The Castleford half, Mike Ford, was pleased with his team-mates' efforts. "Playing at this level can only make Castleford better," he said. "If you put Castleford in the Australasian Super League, after three weeks we would be playing to their standard. Back home you play to English standards."
Castleford produced some fine rugby, one move taking the ball almost the length of the field before the winger Chris Smith scored.
Brad Davis's crunching hit on Robbie McCormack forced the ball out of his hands. Danny Orr scooped it up before sending Jason Critchley on his way to touch down.
Details, Digest, page 19