A SPIRITED fightback was in vain for Castleford Tigers in Sunday’s 46-26 home defeat against St Helens.
Trailing 18-0 after 13 minutes, the Tigers recovered superbly to cut the deficit to two points but then lost their way again in the second-half.
Skipper Danny Orr, Paul Jackson, Stuart Jones, Rob Parker and Richard Mathers were missing for the Tigers ahead of Sunday’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Leeds .
Samoan centre Willie Isa returned after being out for two months with an ankle injury and Martin Aspinwall made his first appearance since his release from prison after serving a sentence for dangerous driving.
Castleford wasted an excellent early attacking position when Dean Widders fumbled Rangi Chase’s pass 10 metres from the try line.
Saints then took command with three quick tries, all goaled by Jamie Foster.
The scoring burst started when James Roby’s clever pass put in James Graham from close range after eight minutes.
Saints struck again when Roby, Leon Pryce and Paul Wellens made the opening for former Castleford centre Michael Shenton to score on his first game back at his old club.
Castleford fell further behind after Chase was sin-binned for holding down Jonny Lomax after he foiled him with a magnificent try-saving tackle.
Saints immediately made use of the extra man when Loui McCarthy-Scarsbrook forced his way over for a third try in five minutes.
Chase started a remarkable Castleford fightback when he scored with his first touch on his return to the field.
Ryan McGoldrick and Aspinwall made the opening for the Kiwi half-back to dart over to put the Tigers back in the game.
The revival continued when Chase’s high kick set up a try for Kirk Dixon.
Castleford cut the gap to two points with their third try in eight minutes when Chase’s superb pass sent in Nick Youngquest near the corner and Dixon kicked his second goal.
Saints were now under the cosh and only desperate defence prevented Castleford’s Richard Owen scoring.
The visitors survived further Tigers pressure before they increased their lead on the stroke of half-time.
Shenton was halted just short before Lomax’s pass sent in Wellens and Foster converted to put Saints 24-16 up at the break.
Castleford started the second-half strongly.
Adam Milner lost the ball over the try line as they enjoyed a spell of sustained pressure, but St Helens then showed their class by building what proved to be an unassailable lead.
Excellent work by Chris Flannery and Shenton saw Wellens grab his second before Tony Puletua plunged over.
Saints sealed victory when Jon Wilkin’s high kick saw Lee Gaskell pounce for a touchdown and Kyle Eastmond darted over at the corner after slick handling.
Castleford’s Owen and Widders scored late tries but the damage had already been done.