Tigers Tumble Out Of Cup
Posted: Saturday 12th May 2018 - 4:39 PM
Castleford Tigers’ run in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup was prematurely cut short on Saturday afternoon, as St Helens put them to the sword 36-18 at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
Jake Trueman, Greg Minikin and Mike McMeeken came up with tries for the hosts, but they were undone by what can only be described as a Ben Barba masterclass.
As expected in this, a rematch of last season’s incredible Super League semi-final, things were truly on a knife edge early on, with neither side able to assert their authority with any sort of ease.
It took fifteen minutes for points to be put on the board, and Castleford will have been forgiven for feeling hard done by, after what had been a solid period of pressure. The try came from deep, as Barba dealt with an attacking kick and somehow slipped the ball to Regan Grace in open space. Despite the best efforts of Adam Milner, there was no catching the Welsh international in full stride.
Buoyed by the opening score, Saints stepped on the gas and launched an assault on the Tigers’ line. However, Castleford refused to ship a further try, forcing the visitors to opt for the two points when they received a penalty at the Wheldon Road End.
The Tigers were receiving plenty of ball and were really mixing it with the current Betfred Super League leaders. But, St Helens have proven all season long how quickly they can strike, and Barba obliged after half an hour, scoring a similar full-length effort to the one Grace had previously come up with.
So despite what was, all-in-all, a good half of rugby from the Tigers, they entered the sheds without a point to their credit.
Ideally, Castleford could have done with scoring first in the second half, to create a real platform to build from. However, the mercurial Barba had other ideas, as he somehow wriggled past a couple of defenders and stretched over to plant the ball on the whitewash.
The Tigers didn’t have to wait too long to get on the board though as, a few sets later, Trueman showed his class at half-back by dropping the shoulder and carving his way through the Saints’ defensive line.
The hosts needed to gather some momentum after this, but Saints were too switched on to give Castleford an inch and they were soon in again via Ryan Morgan. Again, Barba – in unplayable form – provided the assist.
However, this was a cup clash after all, so there was still plenty of fight left in the Tigers. Minikin crossed with 20 minutes to play to bring Castleford within twelve, benefitting from a wondrous offload from skipper Michael Shenton.
Continuing the trend of end-to-end rugby, St Helens struck next through Danny Richardson, who stepped his way past a couple of defenders in black and amber.
Then, the result was sealed once and for all as Barba – of course – came up with a phenomenal effort for his hat-trick. There was very little the Tigers’ defenders could do to stop the full-back, who is quite clearly the best player on these shores at the moment.
McMeeken came up with an interception try at the death for the Tigers, but it had little impression on the overall picture of the game.
The Tigers’ time in the Challenge Cup may be over, but next week brings a fresh challenge as we head to Newcastle for a clash with rivals Leeds Rhinos at the Dacia Magic Weekend.
Full Time: Castleford Tigers 18-36 St Helens
Shenton, Minikin, Webster, Wardle, Hitchcox, Ellis, McShane, Watts, Milner, Sene-Lefao, Holmes, McMeeken, Foster
Moors, Millington, Cook, Trueman
Tries: Trueman, Minikin, McMeeken
Conversions: Ellis (3/3)
Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Amor, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin
Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles
Tries: Grace, Barba (3), Morgan, Richardson
Conversions: Richardson (5/6)
Motorpoint Castleford Man of the Match: Jesse Sene-Lefao
Golden Gamble: 04444
*Match Report by Ross Williams