Castleford Tigers 6 St Helens 24: No World Club Challenge hangover as Alex Walmsley double sinks sloppy hosts
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A week earlier, the Super League champions were still in Australia celebrating their epic World Club Challenge victory over Penrith Panthers.
Saints had to battle jetlag in the days leading into the round two clash with the Tigers after a nightmare 53-hour return trip, which involved stopovers in Bangkok and Stockholm, then a coach home from London following a cancelled flight.
Paul Wellens' side arrived in West Yorkshire without several star names – including James Roby and Tommy Makinson – but they had enough quality in their ranks to shrug off the fatigue and increase Castleford's early-season woes.
Jonny Lomax pulled the strings expertly, while Alex Walmsley scored a late double during a huge second stint to end the Tigers' hopes.
Lee Radford promised changes and was as good as his word – Joe Westerman and Mahe Fonua among those omitted – but it was another frustrating afternoon for Castleford on the back of a sluggish display against Hull FC in round one.
Whereas they were slow out of the blocks at the MKM Stadium, the Tigers made a fast start in their first home match and created enough chances to win it several times over.
In the end, Castleford were left to rue one that got away against a Saints team that did not have their usual zip.
The die was cast in the opening minute, Niall Evalds bombing what appeared to be a certain try following a break down the left by Jake Mamo after the Tigers gave the ball air from the kick-off.
Another chance went begging when Alex Mellor was crowded out close to the line on the back of a 40/20 from Paul McShane.
Saints were rocking but they held firm and thought they had broken the deadlock through debutant Tee Ritson, only for the video referee to spot a knee in touch.
A week on from the horror show at the MKM Stadium, Castleford showed more steel on their own line to repel the four-peat champions in the opening quarter.
Going the other way, Mamo was making breaks for fun but his decision-making and execution left a lot to be desired as chance after chance went begging.
The frustration inside the Mend-A-Hose Jungle was palpable – and worse was to come.
With the Tigers backpeddling close to their line, Lomax found Jack Welsby and the man of the moment stretched out to touch down under the posts.
Mark Percival added the extras to give Saints a 6-0 lead, a scoreline that did not reflect the pattern of play in the opening 25 minutes.
As half-time approached, St Helens laid siege to the Castleford line amid a comedy of errors by the hosts but they lacked the quality usually associated with the world's best side.
While the Tigers could take heart from the way they defended their own line, they would have gone into the interval kicking themselves after failing to make the most of their early superiority.
Radford's mood would not have improved in the early stages of the second half after seeing his team fall back into bad habits.
Castleford failed to wrap up Konrad Hurrell and paid the price with the hulking centre getting an offload away to Lomax who benefited from shirt grabbing to put Ritson in for his first Super League try.
When Percival slotted over the conversion to make it 12-0, the Tigers were staring down the barrel of another defeat.
Radford's men needed to score next and they did just that thanks to the lively Jack Broadbent.
After taking Mamo's place on the left wing, the former Leeds Rhinos outside back jinked back inside and was caught high by Welsby.
Referee Liam Moore ruled a penalty try and Gareth Widdop tagged on the extras from in front to get Castleford right back in it.
The Tigers stayed on the front foot and carved out more chances with the game in the balance, Jordan Turner putting down Broadbent's offload close to the line before Evalds threatened after racing through the middle of the Saints defence.
St Helens demonstrated their champion qualities to put the match to bed 16 minutes from time when Walmsley scooped up Welsby's deft kick to score next to the posts.
The towering prop was not done there, touching down again minutes later at the end of a rampaging run.
Castleford's troubles were summed up in the closing stages when Bureta Faraimo inexplicably slid into touch under no pressure after picking off Lomax's pass.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Mamo, Turner, Broadbent, Faraimo, Widdop, Miller, Griffin, McShane, Vete, Edwards, Mellor, Lawler. Substitutes: Milner, Mustapha, Robb, Watts.
St Helens: Welsby, Ritson, Hurrell, Percival, Bennison, Lomax, Dodd, Walmsley, Lussick, Lees, Mata'utia, Bell, Knowles. Substitutes: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wingfield, Norman, Royle.
Referee: Liam Moore.