Brilliant Cas come up short
Posted: Sunday 16th August 2020 - 6:15 PM
Castleford were denied a first win league win against St Helens on their own patch since October 1990 in a low scoring but high-quality affair in the Betfred Super League.
Despite the defeat, it was a superb performance from the under-strength Tigers on Sunday afternoon as they went toe-to-toe with the defending champions as an unbelievable defensive display was eventually underdone with a try three minutes from the hooter to condemn them to an undeserved 10-0 defeat.
Having started the week expecting to face different opponents, both teams had to make the adjustment for the encounter at the Totally Wicked Stadium with the Tigers swapping original opponents Hull FC for arguably the biggest test in the competition – seeking a first away win at Saints in 33 attempts.
They were also forced into a late tactical shuffle on game day as Jake Trueman was ruled out with a back spasm. That meant a switch to the halves for Paul McShane and a call up for Calum Turner to the bench, whilst Liam Watts and Nathan Massey returned to the side to bolster the forward pack. New signing Gareth O’Brien took his place at full back after only a handful of training sessions and impressed with his new teammates, although close season signing Sosaia Feki was given an extra week before making his debut.
With Peter Mata’utia also absent through suspension, the Cas attack looked a little clunky at times against a superb and well-drilled Saints outfit, with much of the early responsibility falling on Danny Richardson who began brightly at the heart of the Tigers attack with several pinpoint kicks forcing his former club to bring the ball away from their own line, whilst his cut-out pass saw stand-in centre Alex Foster given the space to make the first break of the match inside five minutes.
Skipper Michael Shenton also found room in the opposite centre channel in a swift Cas counter-attack as Daryl Powell’s men had the better of things in the opening quarter, with Shenton coming closest to opening the scoring as he knocked on stretching to ground McShane’s delicate kick into the in-goal.
It took until the half hour mark for Saints – coming into the clash on the back of big wins over Catalans and Leeds – to threaten the Tigers line. A run of four penalties for the home side gave them a spell of territory in prime field position but the Fords held firm, with Kyle Amor and Matty Lees both held up over the line as Cas worked valiantly.
It summed up a superb first half defensive performance that will have delighted head coach Powell, with his team doing an excellent job of winning the territorial battle for large periods and restricting the metres of the opposition’s outside backs on their home patch, and in the end the two sides had to settle for a 0-0 scoreline at the break, despite a late half chance for Jesse Sene-Lefao as he came close to touching down another clever kick into the in-goal, this time from Richardson.
Cas got the second half off to an ideal start with a 40/20 from Richardson in their first set but couldn’t sustain the pressure as they coughed up possession on the resulting attack despite O’Brien linking into the line well down the left. Saints were also struggling to break down the defence in front of them but received a boost when Grant Millington was sin binned for a tackle off the ball on Jonny Lomax.
Lachlan Coote took the opportunity to open the scoring with the penalty goal and added another to give the Saints a 4-0 advantage heading into the final quarter, but Cas did superbly to limit the damage whilst Millington was off the field, with O’Brien coming up with two try saving tackles during that 10-minute period as he prevented Lees and then Aaron Smith from posting the game’s opening try.
The Tigers were sapped of energy by this period and it brought about a change in midfield as Turner entered the fray in the halves to allow McShane to move up to his normal position of hooker, but their work rate in the opening hour was beginning to take its toll. Derrell Olpherts did well to break up a Saints attack on the left edge and return the ball to half way but Cas couldn’t use the chance to build a foothold in the game as Shenton was penalised for a push on Theo Fages as he chased another Richardson kick.
It was potentially a case of next score wins heading into the final 10 minutes as Saints searched for a killer blow and Cas waited patiently for a chance to pull off a big upset. Olpherts again did well to take a nicely timed cut-out pass from O’Brien over the half way line before a huge hit from Oliver Holmes forced an error from Tommy Makinson to give the Fords the field position they’d been searching for.
With Cas struggling to find the fluency to score from long distance, it looked to be their last chance to take the spoils and again it was Richardson’s kicking game that almost paid dividends, only for his grubber to ricochet six inches too long with Shenton lurking.
It did indeed prove to be the opportunity that slipped away as Saints secured the spoils shortly afterwards. First, Alex Walmsley powered through the middle on the next set only to be halted by a textbook one-on-one tackle from the covering O’Brien before Olpherts got back to deny Regan Grace on the next play. However, the momentum was building and eventually the Tigers rear-guard cracked as Fages supported a break from Coote in the final three minutes to eventually seal it as Saints returned to the top of the Super League table.
Full Time: St Helens 10-0 Castleford Tigers
Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Graham, Taia, Bentley, Knowles
McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lees, Amor, Smith
Conversions: Coote (1/1)
Penalty: Coote (2/2)
O’Brien, Olpherts, Foster, Shenton, Clare, McShane, Richardson, Watts, Milner, Griffin, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey
Millington, Sene-Lefao, O’Neill, Turner
Sin Bin: Millington
*Match report by Matt Holden
**Photography by SWPix
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