ST HELENS twice came from behind to secure an exciting 30-20 win over a depleted but brave Castleford at the Jungle.
The Tigers were a shadow of the side that suffered a humiliating 58-16 home defeat by lowly Hull KR as they shrugged off the absence of eight senior players to lead 20-12 after an hour before falling agonisingly short at the end.
Jonny Lomax, once more switching between full-back and wing on his return from a second knee reconstruction, followed up his two-try performance on his comeback against Leeds with Saints’ final try to put the seal on an unconvincing win for Keiron Cunningham’s men.
Castleford coach Daryl Powell gave a debut to 17-year-old prop Conor Fitzsimmons and was forced to reshuffle his line-up just before kick-off after centre Jake Webster pulled out in the warm-up, with prop forward Grant Millington starting the match at stand-off.
But it looked anything like a patched-up team when the home side went in front on 12 minutes when Luke Gale’s towering kick to the line was plucked out of the air in trademark fashion by Joel Monaghan, a winger playing at centre, for the opening try.
The Tigers were pressing once more when hooker James Roby collected Ryan Hampshire’s attacking kick 10 metres out from his own line to set up a counter-attack which created the position for an equalising score.
Castleford committed the ultimate sin of allowing the ball to bounce from Luke Walsh’s kick and paid the price when second rower Joe Greenwood pounced for an eighth try of the season, which Walsh goaled.
Roby was off the pitch by then, having treatment for a badly-bleeding nose, and the home side went back in front in his absence when winger Denny Solomona regathered another accurate kick from Gale to touch down for his 14th try of the season.
Roby was able to return eight minutes before half-time and Saints’ attack looked far more potent with him at the heart of it.
He was involved in the try that brought his side level for a second time, winger Shannon McDonnell taking Mark Percival’s pass to cross at the corner four minutes into the second half, with Walsh putting them in front for the first time with his touchline conversion.
The lead lasted just four minutes, however, as the Tigers gained their second wind to score two tries in what looked likely to be a decisive seven-minute spell.
A handling error by St Helens captain Jon Wilkin gifted his opponents the ball in a great attacking position and Gale punished it by sending second rower Mike McMeeken through a gap before winger Jy Hitchcox raced onto Crooks’ grubber kick to touch down at the corner.
That made it 20-12 but Saints struck back with two tries of their own in quick succession.
The Castleford defence opened up invitingly for prop Kyle Amor to go over and Greenwood grabbed his second after two defenders failed to clear the danger posed by Walsh’s high kick.
Saints still had plenty of defence to do to keep their lead intact and were mightily relieved when Lomax went past some tired tacklers to score their fifth try, to which Walsh added a fifth goal.