‘Devastated’ Castleford Tigers forced to concede Challenge Cup dress rehearsal against St Helens

Castleford’s Challenge Cup final rehearsal against St Helens, scheduled for Wednesday, has been cancelled because Tigers can’t raise a team.

By Peter Smith
Monday, 28th June 2021, 8:29 pm
Short of numbers: Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Short of numbers: Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

CASTLEFORD TIGERS say they are “devastated” after this week’s Challenge Cup final rehearsal against St Helens was cancelled because they can’t raise a team.

The Betfred Super League clash at the Jungle, scheduled for Wednesday, will not be rearranged and Saints have been awarded a 24-0 win.

The drama comes less than three weeks before the teams meet at Wembley, on Saturday, July 17.

Out: Tigers' Jaques O'Neill suffered a hamstring injury against Catalans. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com

Tigers say they have only 14 players available because of injuries and coronavirus problems in their lower grades.

But they do not meet the criteria of seven or more first team players ruled out due to the virus, so the fixture will be forfeited.

A statement from the club said: “The Tigers have just 14 first Team players available for selection for the fixture on Wednesday, due to injuries and following a young player within the first team environment testing positive for Covid-19, which has resulted in seven of our young first team environment players and joint first team/Academy players needing to be stood down due to contact tracing protocols.”

It added: “Castleford Tigers is confident it can field a team for the round 13 fixture of Betfred Super League 2021 against Huddersfield Giants on Tuesday, July 6.

Missing: Castleford's Paul McShane suffered a neck injury while makinghis England debut last week. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“This is due to a number of players becoming available following treatment of smaller scale injuries and more of the Tigers’ young players within the first team and academy environments returning from self-isolation periods and being ready for selection.”

Explaining why under-19s players could not step in this week, the statement said: “The club unfortunately cannot call upon the Tigers’ academy for Wednesday night’s match against St Helens due to two academy players returning positive Covid-19 tests following a game last week, which has resulted in the Tigers’ academy setup being shut down for 10 days.

“All efforts were made by Castleford Tigers to try and get the Super League fixture played, but these unusual circumstances have resulted in its cancellation.”

A joint RFL/Super League statement confirmed the game at the Jungle has been “cancelled because an unusual range of circumstances have left Castleford unable to field a 17-man squad for the match”.

It added: “In addition to a lengthy injury list among their senior squad, the Tigers have a number of young players with first team experience unavailable for selection as close contacts of a single Covid-19 positive – and separately, their Academy squad have all been advised to isolate as a result of two further positive tests.”

The statement confirmed: “The match has been awarded to St Helens with a 24-0 victory because Castleford do not meet the threshold for a postponement under the Covid-19 framework of seven senior players unavailable as a direct result of positive tests or as close contacts.”

Tigers have revealed the extent of their injury list, but say most will not be sidelined for the long-term.

Players unavailable this week are: Peter Mata’utia (slight groin strain suffered playing for Combined Nations All Stars against England last Friday), Michael Shenton (minor knee injury v Catalans Dragons last week), Sosaia Feki (ruptured Achilles tendon, out for the season), Jake Trueman (back), Liam Watts (shoulder injury against Catalans, likely to be out for two weeks),

Paul McShane (slight neck injury, playing for England), Grant Millington (knee injury suffered in the Challenge Cup quarter-final against Salford, he “continues to work towards being back and ready for selection”), Oliver Holmes (fluid around his knee following the Catalans game), Cheyse Blair (hamstring), Alex Foster (fractured cheekbone, against Catalans), Jacques O’Neill (hamstring, against Catalans), Jesse Sene-Lefao (hamstring, against Wakefield Trinity two weeks ago, believed to be short-term), Greg Eden (hamstring, against Leeds Rhinos), Suaia Matagi (pre-season calf injury, aggravated playing for Combined Nations All Stars), Jordan Turner and Gareth O’Brien (both failed fitness checks on Monday), Jason Qareqare (self-isolating after a classmate tested positive for Covid).