The hardest half of my career - Oliver Holmes reflects on Castleford Tigers' sapping defeat by St Helens
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There was no score in an opening period which Holmes described as “probably the hardest first half of rugby league I have ever played”.
“It was constant, there weren’t many stoppages in play”, Holmes said of the energy-sapping first half. “We talk about taking the 30 seconds on the shot clock at stoppages where possible, but in that first half I don’t think there were many chances to do it.
“It was relentless, the boys have worked so hard and I am really proud of them after a poor defensive performance the week before.”
Under new rules, which have made the game faster, every player has to contribute and Holmes said, crucially for Tigers, coach Daryl Powell’s squad are all willing to do that.
“How fast the game is now and how relentless, the middles and backs have got to keep working,” Holmes warned.
“The middles have got to keep grafting and when we are tired the backs come in and take those hard carries.
“The workload has been shared out between the team, everybody worked so hard and we just fell short.”
Sunday’s defeat was Tigers’ second game since the long coronavirus break, following a 40-14 loss to Catalans Dragons eight days earlier.
They have slipped to seventh in Betfred Super League, but Holmes is confident Tigers will improve with more time on the field.
He said: “Having that game last week under our belts has stood us in good stead.
“We are a bit more adjusted to the game now, but it is difficult and our bodies are still getting used to it.
“It will take some time, the middles were under immense pressure and we’ve just got to keep working.”
Holmes, normally a second-rower, had a spell filling in at centre against Saints.
“It’s not something I haven’t done before – though maybe not on the right,” he recalled.
“I came off and sat down and about two minutes later Powelly said ‘can you go in the centre’?
“I just cracked on, you have got to do what the team needs.
“I was probably a bit out of sorts for a centre, but more disappointed not to get the win.”
Tigers have not beaten St Helens in an away game since 1992.
They lost 4-0 last August and Holmes feels that long-awaited victory is coming.
“We need to get the monkey off our backs,” he admitted.
“We won there in a friendly, but that’s not when it counts.
“We are in good stead, we need to be a bit more clinical in the final third of the field.
“Our attacking play was a bit off, I think we missed Jake Trueman a bit, but I think in time it will come and there’s plenty to build on.”
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