JUSTIN Holbrook admitted his side will have to play better next week to get a result out of their opening Super League clash against 2017 League Leaders’ Shield winners Castleford Tigers.

It was the defensive department that caused concern, with Leigh fighting back from 8-0 down to take a 20-12 lead early in the second half before tries from Danny Richardson and Zeb Taia edged their side home against a Leigh team virtually unrecognisable from the one that was relegated from Super League last year.

“I thought defensively we were poor in the first half,” said Saints’ head coach.

“I thought it was a bit of everything. We got caught out a few times, making poor decisions, and not probably strong enough with our tackles.

“But I also realise that was most of our boys’ first game.

“I think Leigh have had four or five friendlies. It was my decision to give guys only one – and that’s what it’s for, blow the cobwebs off, get your timing right, get back into the swing of things and fix everything up quickly for next Friday.”

He added: “I’m really happy with the attack as I thought we looked dangerous all game.

“Even though we made a number of changes I still thought we were creating plenty.

“I was happy to just have a good hit-out and can now look forward to next week.

“I think we’ve all come through ok which is good. And that’s the main thing.

“It was a tough hit-out for us, exactly what we needed.

“Leigh are going to be really hard to beat this year in the Championship. They’re a Super League side playing in the Championship.”

And in attack there was a shining light at full-back in Ben Barba, who scored two tries out of nothing and set up another for stand-off Jonny Lomax.

“He did look like he’d do something with the ball every time he had it, which is great,” said Holbrook.

“That’s just what we need from him.”

Lomax partnered Matty Smith in the halves to start the game, though Danny Richardson was introduced for the second half and another in the mix for the number 6 or 7 shirt Theo Fages spent time at hooker.

Holbrook accepted there remains a conundrum as to who will play in the halves.

“It feels very similar to last year,” he said.

“We’ll work it out this week, but I’ve said all along either way I’m happy whoever plays there and that’s a good thing from a coaching point of view.”

He also said he’s not yet settled on his 17 to face Cas at the Totally Wicked Stadium next Friday.

“I was always going to use tonight as a good stepping stone in a couple of positions which is the good thing about the friendlies,” he said.

“It’s a reward and an opportunity for guys to try and force their way into the team for round one. And I thought it did that well tonight.

“We need to play better, but I’ve never seen a good friendly played in my life. You have massive numbers of players chopping and changing. Friendlies are hard to look impressive in.

“We just wanted to have a good hit-out and we got that for sure. Leigh were a great opposition for us and pushed us all the way.”