Tigers agonisingly short against Saints
Posted: Friday 30th August 2019 - 9:43 PM
It was a case of so near and yet so far for Cas as they went down 4-0 to League Leaders St Helens.
In truth, there was little between the teams in a fiercely fought contest at the Totally Wicked Stadium but the Tigers couldn’t find a way through a resolute Saints defence as they came up short of sealing a first win away from home against tonight’s opponents in 27 years.
However, in what felt like a play-off encounter with two more games remaining in the Betfred Super League campaign, there were plenty of positives for the Fords as they stayed in touch of the top-five heading into next week’s huge encounter against Hull FC.
Boosted by the return of Liam Watts to the starting line up against last week’s Coral Challenge Cup runners up, Cas got off to the better start in this evening’s game and Greg Minikin was stopped inches short three times early on as his side probed for an opening, flick passes from Cheyse Blair on two of those occasions creating chances for his winger only for a tough Saints defence to cover across.
James Clare also went close on the opposite flank but was again forced back inside in slippery conditions on Merseyside, with the Tigers having to console themselves at dominating territory and field position without converting it into points in the opening 15 minutes.
As the first quarter wore on, the League Leaders’ Shield winners grew into the contest and some scrambling defence was needed from Cas to hold up Luke Thompson in the shadow of the posts whilst the introduction of Alex Walmsley and Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook helped the home side turn the tide in midfield.
Cas spent the next period of the game bringing the ball away from their red zone but excellent breaks from Oliver Holmes and Clare helped relieve the pressure, whilst the work rate of Blair was sensational in taking the hard yards off the forwards in a scoreless first half hour.
In the end, the first and only points of the match came after 33 minutes. An error just inside the Saints half from the Tigers provided the field position and the hosts worked the blindside later in the set to give Regan Grace the space to stretch over in the corner despite the best efforts of Jordan Rankin. Danny Richardson missed the difficult conversion from the touchline but St Helens led 4-0.
That was the way it remained at half-time after a really competitive first 40 minutes from both sides, with Cas needing to improve their accuracy in good ball situations to claw their way back into the contest in the second half but surely pleased with their tenacity and aggression in defence.
The second half began in much the same fashion as the opening stages of the game with Cas edging the battle for territory but unable to find the key to unlock a brilliant Saints rearguard. Jake Trueman’s kicking game was the most challenging option the Tigers came up with from close range, forcing a drop out and almost teeing up an opportunity for the chasing Rankin.
To their credit, some ferocious defence from Cas was also forcing mistakes from the home side who struggled to gain the stronghold on the contest they had enjoyed for much of the season as the competition’s leading side, but a lack of potency in attack was costing Daryl Powell’s men heading into the final quarter.
The Tigers’ attacking threat did step up a notch as the game entered the final stages as they came on strong in search of a potentially defining score. First, Rankin made a wonderful break from deep through the heart of the Saints defence which Clare then followed up with another strong run down the right flank, whilst an excellent kick-chase from Trueman earned another a repeat set although again Cas could find no way through.
As the game wore on, it was looking ever more likely there only one try would be needed to potentially win it and Cas edged closer once again as Minikin broke clear down the left edge only for his pass to the supporting Trueman to be called marginally forward. Mike McMeeken then had a half chance but couldn’t collect a bouncing ball as a high kick caused chaos in the Saints defence but the home side kept finding a way of keeping the Tigers at bay.
At the other end, Jack Welsby and Jonny Lomax were denied tries for obstruction late on shortly after a powerful run from Walmsley had been held up over the line but the clock was ticking away from the Fords and an error from Peter Mata’utia with a little over a minute remaining effectively ended Cas’ hopes of a stealing a late win.
Full Time: St Helens 4-0 Castleford Tigers
Welsby, Makinson, Costello, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Amor, Roby, Thompson, Ashworth, Taia, Knowles
Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paulo, Bentley
Conversions: Richardson (0/1)
Rankin, Clare, Mata’utia, Blair, Minikin, Trueman, Ellis, Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey
Milner, Sene-Lefao, O’Neill, Smith
*Match report by Matt Holden
**Photography by Melanie Allatt Photography
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