YOUNG gun Tom Holmes missed the surprise phone call to say he would start in Castleford Tigers’ Challenge Cup game against St Helens but certainly didn’t miss taking his chance.
Before Saturday’s BBC televised sixth round tie the 21-year-old had only started four games for his hometown club and spent most of his time on loan at Championship Batley Bulldogs this term.
Nevertheless, with Rangi Chase out of the picture – his club investigating an alleged off-field incident involving the former Man of Steel at Featherstone Rovers last Thursday – and doubts over Benny Roberts’ fitness, Holmes was given the nod.
He duly helped the Super League leaders produce yet another stunning masterclass and set up a quarter-final meeting away at top-flight rivals Hull FC.
“I got called Friday but actually missed the call,” said Holmes, following the 10-try destruction of hapless Saints.
“When I did speak to Daryl (Powell) he said ‘listen it’s looking like you’ll be starting tomorrow.’ It was a bit of a strange phone call but I got really excited, had a good session on the Friday and then dug in on Saturday.
“I absolutely loved it. It was great to get a start and it was just a massive team performance from start to finish.
“We had a few little blips here and there but the scoreline shows how well we played as a team.
“Week in week out we’re just putting those really good performances together and it’s showing every week.”
Indeed, people are running out of superlatives for the Super League leaders given the way they are destroying sides with such brilliant football.
They have scored more than 40 points in all seven of their home games so far this season but, more importantly, continue to defend with real zeal, too.
On Saturday, Saints had a chance to turn this sixth round tie in their favour when trailing just 10-4 after Ryan Morgan’s 17th minute try.
Zeb Taia saw one effort disallowed but then Powell’s side fiercely protected their line for a sustained period before mercilessly blitzing their rivals with 21 points inside just eight minutes before the break.
That saw them 31-4 ahead and, from there, Super League’s leading try-scorer Greg Eden took his tally for the season to 18 with a hat-trick that came inside 19 second half minutes.
Fellow wideman Greg Minikin completed his brace with a fine solo score with Jake Webster, the veteran centre who has signed on again for 2018, having already scored twice in the first period.
Captain Michael Shenton, outstanding hooker Paul McShane and industrious forward Nathan Massey were their other try-scorers as Castleford left a national audience on the BBC eulogising about their free-flowing style.
Powell would not comment about Chase’s position post-match against Saints although he was hopeful Zak Hardaker, the England full-back who was helped off with an ankle injury in the 77th minute, would be fit for the Magic Weekend game against Leeds Rhinos on Sunday.
It means Holmes, who played off the bench in Castleford’s previous win at Huddersfield with Luke Gale on England duty and Roberts injured, might get another outing.
“I’ve never played against Leeds so I would love that,” he said, Powell conceding he brought Roberts off as precaution following his recent hamstring issue. I’m loving learning from all the half-backs at Cas.
“I’ve been on loan at Batley and played quite a few games there so it’s a bit different coming from the Championship to playing here but it’s just getting my game time there. Obviously it’s tough when Benny’s fit getting that half-back slot but to get the chance I really enjoyed it.
“When they brought me off on 20 minutes they said it was always the plan. “Benny then had 20 minutes and I finished off the second half. I didn’t really expect to get 60 minutes on the field to be fair so it was really good.
“We’ll see how everyone pulls up this week but hopefully I get another shot.”
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden; Holmes, Gale; Lynch, McShane, Millington, Sene-Lefao, Milner. Substitutes: Massey, Roberts, Moors, Cook.
St Helens: Makinson; Swift, Percival, Morgan, Grace; Fages, Smith; Walmsley, Roby, Douglas, Taia, Knowles, Thompson. Substitutes: Amor, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Richards.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).