WE SAVED our worst performance for the last – and biggest – game.
That was the reaction of devastated Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell after his side’s 24-6 loss to Leeds Rhinos in the Betfred Super League Grand Final.
Tigers finished 10 points clear of second-placed Leeds on the table – becoming league leaders for the first time in their history – but the big game at the Theatre of Dreams turned into a nightmare.
Castleford fell well below the high standards they have set this year and Powell felt they literally handed the title to Leeds.
He said: “It was tough conditions, but we couldn’t quite get a grip of what we were doing with the ball.
“We made a lot of errors, just basic stuff.
“We made 18 errors, 10 in the second half. I didn’t think we could get any worse with ball retention, but we managed to achieve that in the second.
“It is massively disappointing we couldn’t sustain or build any pressure on Leeds at all. We did that to ourselves really. We didn’t do ourselves justice.
“If we’d been able to do that and then got beat you could hold your hands up and say fair enough, but Leeds didn’t see the best of us and they were pretty good I thought.
“They massively deserved the win because we were nowhere near, but I don’t think they had much to beat and that’s the most disappointing thing. We didn’t put up enough of a battle because of our ball retention.”
They massively deserved the win because we were nowhere near, but I don’t think they had much to beat and that’s the most disappointing thing. We didn’t put up enough of a battle because of our ball retention.Castleford Tigers’ head coach, Daryl Powell
A rainy night did not suit Tigers, but Powell added: “We’ve played in wet conditions before and I haven’t seen us make that many errors.
“It just escalated on us and the harder we tried the worse we got. It’s gut-wrenching to see a group of blokes who’ve been so superb this year come up with a really poor effort.”
Tigers were without Dream Team full-back Zak Hardaker who was unavailable for selection after breaching club rules.
Powell said that was a “big disruption”, though he felt Cas were good enough to win if they had played well.
Asked if Hardaker has a future at the club, Powell said: “I can’t really comment. I think it will come out in due course. It is nothing to do with me, that, but you will all be aware of that pretty quickly I think.”