Despite producing a much improved display Castleford Tigers were unable to hold on to an eight-point lead as they lost 30-20 to bogey side St Helens at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
The Tigers rarely beat the Saints, but hopes were high when they opened up a 20-12 lead 13 minutes into the second half, but it was the visitors who produced the stronger finish to take the points.
Fans stayed behind to applaud the players off this week, however, as Castleford gave it a real go and were unlucky with a few decisions.
A tough first half was light on thrills, but full of effort from a Cas team determined to make up for last week’s embarrassment against Hull KR.
The improved approach was signalled in only the second minute when Dominique Peyroux was driven in touch by at least four Tigers tacklers two metres from the home line.
Cas lost Jake Webster in the warm-up and were forced into a major shuffle round of their intended line-up with Grant Millington at stand-off, Joel Monaghan in to centre, Matt Cook starting in the forwards and Will Maher brought onto the bench alongside debutant youngster Conor Fitzsimmons.
But the disruption did not knock their determination and they almost scored in the sixth minutes as winger Denny Solomona knocked on trying to reach Luke Gale’s high kick.
That was to prove a big tactic in the first half as Gale launched another high kick on 11 minutes and Monaghan collected it cleanly to go over for the opening try, converted by Gale.
Back came Saints to score from a kick as Luke Walsh’s bomb was allowed to bounce and Joe Greenwood picked up to dive over for a try converted by Walsh.
Cas were soon back in attack with the returning Ben Crooks driven in touch two metres out as he was unable to get the ball away to supporting winger Jy Hitchcox.
A Walsh kick forced a drop-out at the other end, but it was the hosts who scored next on the half-hour through a carbon copy move of their first try. Solomona this time caught Gale’s high kick to the corner and although there was no conversion it was 10-6.
That was how it stayed to the break with both sides’ defences proving strong for the remainder of the half. The closest to a score was when Saints’ Shannon McDonnell was tackled into touch by Hitchcox close to the home line.
St Helens made the better start to the second half as only a Crooks knock down prevented a try and they did score a minute later with McDonnell sent over in the corner by a good handling move.
Walsh’s goal made it 12-10, but Saints then lost the ball in the first set from the restart and Adam Milner was inches away from punishing them as he raced for the line.
From the set that followed the Tigers did go over, however, as Mike McMeeken charged onto a great short pass by Gale for a try goaled by Gale.
Five minutes later Cas scored again with Hitchcox diving onto a Ben Crooks kick through after Paul McShane’s original grubber had bounced back to him off a Saints player.
Gale could not goal, but his side were now 20-12 ahead.
However, Saints found another gear from somewhere and Kyle Amor charged through a gap onto Walsh’s pass to keep his side in the game.
James Roby was held up over the line soon after before a possibly controversial try followed to put the visitors in front.
Walsh’s high kick was spilled by Crooks as he was challenged in the air. No penalty came and Greenwood pounced on the loose ball for a big score.
Cas looked to hit back and exerted some big pressure with Crooks tackled just short and Gale’s high kick knocked on by Jack Owens. Another high kick was well taken by Owens with Solomona blocked off by defenders trying to get the ball.
He appealed to the tough judge to no avail and all the pressure came to nothing as Saints defended well.
The visitors showed how to finish three minutes from time when Jonny Lomax scooted over. Walsh completed his perfect kicking day to make the final score a harsh 30-20 against Castleford.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Monaghan, Solomona, McMeeken, Hitchcox; goals Gale 2. St Helens: Tries Greenwood 2, McDonnell, Amor, Lomax: goals Walsh 5.
Castleford Tigers: Hampshire; Hitchcox, Crooks, Monaghan, Solomona; Millington, Gale; Lynch, Milner, Jewitt, Cook, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: McShane, Cook, Springer, Fitzsimmons.
St Helens: McDonnell; Lomax, Peyroux, Percival, Owens; Fages, Walsh; Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Vea, Greenwood, Wilkin. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Tasi, Richards, Knowles.
Referee: Gareth Hewer.