St Helens 36 Castleford Tigers 16: Alex Walmsley powers Saints forward as Castleford outclassed again
FOR THE second time this season, vanquished Castleford Tigers were handed a rugby league lesson by Super League leaders St Helens.
Coach Daryl Powell had won on all six of his Magic Weekend visits with the West Yorkshire club but there was no way that record would be extended tonight.
Saints had almost come unstuck against Salford Red Devils last week but in Liverpool they were back to their slick, purposeful best as they maintained a six-point lead at the top.
Outclassed Castleford certainly had no answers as Justin Holbrook’s side - with Dewsbury-born prop Alex Walmsley immense up front - showed equal measures of swagger and steel.
Tigers were beaten 42-12 at home to Saints in March and, given their lack of discipline and control here, they had no chance of redeeming themselves after missing 20 tackles in the first half alone.
Late tries for Chris Clarkson and Greg Eden only papered over the cracks; the difference in quality was far greater with the Merseyside club simply too quick around the ruck.
St Helens were 20-0 ahead after just 22 minutes although they had still not been as dominant as that scoreline suggests.
Castleford actually started brightly, Mike McMeeken’s bold flick pass unleashing Greg Minikin down the right edge.
Although the Tigers centre was reigned in, his side managed to force consecutive drop-outs, Jake Trueman’s pinpoint short kicking game doing the damage.
However, Castleford were unable to cross the line from either set, Saints defending smartly to see off the early pressure before clinically showing their opponents just how to maximise opportunities.
Tigers had been on the attack again when Kevin Naiqama this time snaffled a Grant Millington offload and raced upfield to relieve the pressure.
Although Cory Aston chased him down, at the next play, Theo Fages cleverly came back to the shortside and Tommy Makinson was in for his 11th Super League try of the season.
It heralded a purple patch of four tries in just 14 minutes from which Powell’s side - who admittedly are still without a raft of key personnel - would never recover.
Tigers full-back Peter Mata'utia fired a pass into touch and Regan Grace was over following a wonderful assist from Zeb Taia after Fages once more exposed some lazy inside defenders.
They scored back-to-back tries after conceding a penalty in the restart set, Liam Watts holding onto Walmsley on the ground.
Much was made beforehand about the battle between these two in-form props but Walmsley certainly got the better of matters tonight.
He sent Watts flying in resulting set to provide a quick play-the-ball that James Roby lapped up, the England hooker darting away before sending Jonny Lomax over.
But Fages got their fourth try after Lachlan Coote was given far too much time and space to run on the last tackle, the excellent Makinson having initially set up position with another quality diagonal run inside.
Powell was left shaking his head as Matt Cook this time conceded a penalty immediately in the restart set to gift more territory to Saints.
The prop had only just entered the field but was soon spoken to by referee Robert Hicks after conceding three penalties in no little time.
Cook, unusually, also spilled on the first tackle after his side had at last earned what should have been a relieving penalty.
Castleford at least got some respite when Roby was sin-binned for an alleged crusher tackle on Trueman although it looked accidental and the Super League Young Player of the Year may have actually been injured after initially clashing heads with his opponent.
The West Yorkshire side did manage to get off the mark when Saints were down to 12 men, although even then it was fortuitous as Trueman’s grubber ricocheted kindly into Millington’s grasp.
Mata’utia converted but they could not eat further into that deficit, two unusually poor Trueman kicks letting their opponents off the hook.
Instead, at the start of the second period, Cook illegally stripped possession and Jack Ashworth powered over between the posts alarmingly untouched.
Trueman became the third Castleford player to concede a penalty on the first tackle of a restart set, catching Makinson high, as his side continued to make life easy for Saints.
Coote made sure when he latched onto Taia’s latest classy offload on the hour mark and then Naiqama surged through to hand-off Mata'utia and get another before Castleford at least finished on a positive note.
Trueman's passes in the build-up to both scores were undoubtedly quality touches.
His side remain in fifth and now have almost a fortnight to prepare for the visit of improving Huddersfield Giants.
St Helens: Coote; Makinson, Naiqama, Costello, Grace; Fages, Lomax; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Peyroux, Taia, Knowles. Substitutes: Paulo, Ashworth, Smith, Bentley.
Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia; Clare, Minikin, Blair, Eden; Trueman, Aston; Watts, McShane, Smith, McMeeken, Millington, Milner. Substitutes: Cook, Maher, Rankin, Clarkson.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham)