CAN ANYONE or anything stop Castleford Tigers? That’s the question after they defied the odds to beat St Helens 16-12 and go four points clear at the top of Betfred Super League.
It was Tigers’ third game in 10 days, against opponents who hadn’t played for 11, they were were without some of their top players and trailed by eight at the break, but still found a way to win.
Tigers trailed for most of the game, but snatched the points eight minutes from time when Tom Holmes won the race to Greg Minikin’s kick and Paul McShane added the extras.
For most of the match Tigers looked to be running on empty and they were far from their best with ball in hand, but a superb defensive effort kept them in it and they somehow found energy at the end to plunder a deserved win.
Saints opened the scoring through Mark Percival after 14 minutes. He picked up Matty Smith’s loose pass and got round the defence to touch down at the corner and Tommy Makinson converted off a post.
Five minutes before the break Tigers received three penalties on Saints’ line and eventually the pressure paid off when Kieran Gill squeezed over at the corner for an unconverted try off Jake Webster’s pass.
But in the next set Holmes spilled Junior Moors’ pass deep in Tigers territory and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook punished the mistake by powering over from close range.
Makinson’s conversion made it 12-4 at the interval. Saints’ Luke Thompson was held up over the Tigers line early in the second half and Moors, who later went off hurt, knocked on trying to touch down at the other end moments later.
Just before the hour Cas got back into it when Mike McMeeken threw a dummy and rampaged through a huge gap and McShane’s conversion cut the gap to two points.
After Holmes’ try Saints, who were poor throughout, had one chance to salvage something when Alex Walmsley forced his way over the Cas line, but was penalised for a double-movement.
It was a remarkable win for Tigers. Coach Daryl Powell fielded one more of his star men than he had planned to, McMeeken, who wasn’t in the initial 19, taking a spot on the bench in place of Will Maher (sternum).
But England trio Zak Hardaker, Luke Gale and Michael Shenton were rested, along with Grant Millington, and Matt Cook and Adam Milner joined Oliver Holmes on the injury list.
Winger Gill made his debut on the right wing and fellow youngster Jake Trueman was included in the 17 for the first time, among the substitutes, getting on for the final 10 minutes.
Gill did a good job, scoring a try and making one excellent catch from a high kick by Smith, before being replaced by Jy Hitchcox early in the second half.
It was Hitchcox’s first appearance of the season for Tigers, after a long injury lay-off and he kept Cas in the game with two terrific try-saving tackles on Regan Grace and preserved their late lead with a similar effort to keep out Percival.
Castleford Tigers: Eden, Gill, Webster, Monaghan, Minikin, Roberts, T Holmes, Lynch, McShane, Massey, Foster, Larroyer, Sene-Lefao. Subs McMeeken, Moors, Hitchcox, Trueman.
St Helens: Makinson, Swift, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Smith, Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Taia, Wilkin, Knowles. Subs Lee, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Thompson.
Referee: Chris Campbell (Widnes).