St Helens 10 Castleford Tigers 0 - Display in defeat hints at Grand Final potential insists coach Daryl Powell
There was no score in the first half and, until Theo Fages crossed for the late winner, the game was on course to be only the second tryless fixture in Super League’s 25-season history.
The deadlock wasn’t broken until nine minutes after half-time when Tigers’ substitute prop Grant Millington was sin-binned - wrongly according to Tigers coach Daryl Powell - for a late challenge on Jonny Lomax and Lachlan Coote took the two.
Coote doubled the lead in similar fashion six minutes later following some interference in front of Tigers’ posts.
It stayed 4-0 - an identical scoreline to Tigers’ last away game against Saints 12 months ago - until Alex Walmsley broke the line, fed Coote and Fages was in support to score.
Coote’s conversion made it 10-0 and completed the scoring, but Tigers - who have not won away to Saints since 1992 - couldn’t have given much more.
Missing injured stand-off Jacob Trueman owing to a back injury, they were limited to only a couple of half-chances on attack, but their defence was magnificent. Saints players were held up over the line three times, substitute Jesse Sene-Lefao being involved in two of those tackles as well as try savers on Matty Lees and Regan Grace.
Only discipline really let Tigers down. The two penalties were among five in succession awarded against them after the break and the spell with 12 men was energy sapping for a team missing several key players.
There was even less between the teams than the scoreline suggests and Saints - who have now gone two games without conceding - didn’t threaten Tigers’ line until the last 10 minutes of the first half.
Kyle Amor crashed over off Jonny Lomax’s short pass, but Paul McShane and Sene-Lefao stopped him getting the ball down. Then a penalty, two set restarts and a knock-on by debutant full-back Gareth O’Brien from Fages’ kick put Tigers under what looked like being unbearable pressure, but Sene Lefao and O’Brien held Lees up over the line and a fumble by Amor let the visitors off the hook.
Inside the final minute of the half, Lees again got over the whitewash, but a gang of tacklers - including Millington - prevented the touchdown. Tigers’ only glimmer of a chance came at the end of the opening quarter when McShane dabbed a kick over Saints’ line, but referee James Child and his video assistant Liam Moore ruled the ball wasn’t grounded.
With six minutes left, Richardson produced a similar kick, but again Shenton could not quite apply the finishing touch. Powell was left to rue his side’s bad luck: “If we keep turning up with that kind of defensive resolve we’re not going to be far away. Losing Jake Trueman this morning was tough; we had to restructure and I don’t think we got any luck in the game.
“We got some tough calls against us, but ultimately it was a really tough game we were in right until the end. I think once our luck turns we have the potential of being a Grand Final team.”
Saints’ Tommy Makinson was placed on report in the first half for alleged “inappropriate contact” on Liam Watts, having supposedly squeezed the Tigers’ prop’s testicles.
St Helens: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Graham, Taia, Bentley, Knowles. Subs McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lees, Amor, Smith.
Castleford Tigers: O’Brien, Olpherts, Foster, Shenton, Clare, McShane, Richardson, Watts, Milner, Griffin, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Subs Millington, Turner, Sene-Leafao, O’Neill.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).