JUSTIN CARNEY recovered from his moment of madness to score two tries but it was still not enough to end Castleford Tigers’ barren run at St Helens.
The Aussie winger threw an awful pass in front of his own posts to gift the champions an easy score for Josh Jones early in the second period.
He quickly atoned with two tries in three minutes as Castleford – who have not won in the league here since 1990 – rallied to 14-8 and desperately tried to pick up their first victory of the year.
But instead they fell away again, conceding a try to Mark Percival even with Saints down to 12 men after ex-Wakefield Trinity prop Kyle Amor was sin-binned for an ugly “crusher” tackle on Jordan Tansey on the hour mark.
It means Daryl Powell’s side, the big success story of 2014, have lost their opening three games, their worst start to a season since 2008, and six on the trot dating back to last September.
There was mitigating circumstances given they were without a hamstrung Ben Roberts and lost both inspirational prop Andy Lynch to a groin injury and winger Denny Solomona in the first half when they also had a Ryan Boyle effort ruled out for a forward pass which remained debatable.
Junior Moors was a force in the second-row again, as was Oli Holmes, while Tansey overcame his own gaffe to impress at times from full-back and Matt Cook and Mike McMeeken both showed some nice touches on debut.
They face another tough fixture, though, when Wigan Warriors arrive at Wheldon Road on Friday and Powell needs to get them winning soon to ensure their top eight hopes aren’t irrevocably damaged.
St Helens’ big night last Sundayhad gone badly wrong as they were completely out-played by NRL champions South Sydney in the World Club Challenge, losing 39-0 at the same venue.
Powell’s side had endured their own painful nilling at Langtee Park, being vanquished 41-0 in last season’s play-offs as Saints marched onto the title, and it looked like that might happen again as Adam Swift and Tom Makinson scored tries for a 10-0 interval lead.
But Cas had created plenty themselves without getting the spoils, Carney being held up, Michael Shenton wasting one break and Solomona spilling a gilt-edged pass.
Carney eventually came to the fore but it wasn’t enough.
Jon Wilkin slotted a drop goal after Percival’s try meaning former Leeds three-quarter Tansey’s try at the death, converted by Luke Gale, was mere consolation.
St Helens: Lomax; Makinson, Percival, Jones, Swift; Burns, Wilkin; Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Greenwood, Vea, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Substitutes: Masoe, Flanagan, Thompson, Richards.
Castleford Tigers: Tansey; Solomona, Channing, Shenton, Carney; Finn, Gale; Lynch, Moore, Millington, Holmes, Moors, Massey. Substitutes: Milner, Cook, Boyle, McMeeken.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Mirfield).