Castleford Tigers’ warm-up for their big play-off semi-final went wrong as they were nilled for the first time in three seasons and fell to their all too familiar away defeat to St Helens.
The Tigers’ run without a league win at St Helens goes back to 1990 and they never looked like improving that record in a 26-0 defeat, although they did show some determined defence at times to avoid a bigger loss.
There was only pride at stake in the match with both sides’ league position guaranteed whatever the result, but it did come at a possible cost for Castleford as they saw half-back Jake Trueman limp off, making him a doubt for their semi-final at Wigan next Friday.
Little went right for the Tigers on the night as they ended their league season as they started it with defeat at their bogey ground. Saints were ahead from their first sniff of the visitors’ line, young player of the year candidate Matty Lees going over from close range.
Cas looked to hit back with Jesse Sene-Lefao charging for the line only to be brought back for a forward pass.
Their chances of hitting back were hurt when Joe Wardle was sin-binned for holding down too long in a tackle with the hosts on a threatening break. Saints quickly took advantage with Morgan Knowles going over for their second try following Luke Douglas’s burst. Danny Richardson’s second conversion made it 12-0.
The lead became 18 points when Ben Barba backed up Regan Grace’s break and Richardson goaled again.
Cas made a poor start to the second half and were punished with a Richardson penalty and a conversion following a second Barba try.
The Tigers looked in real danger of a hammering, but they did dig in for the remainder, preventing the League Leaders’ Shield winners from scoring another point, although they rarely looked like mounting any sort of comeback.
Head coach Daryl Powell was obviously disappointed with aspects of his side’s display, but vowed the team would be right for the big one next week.
He said: “It was a poor performance. We started pretty well, but we just made too many errors and physically we got beat.
“We weren’t great in terms of our ruck control and the game was played at two different speeds.
“They were way too good for us, but we’ll be right next week. We’ll be in a good place. I’m pretty confident of that. We have to put it behind us, move on and make sure the team we know we can be turns up next week.”
Scorers - St Helens: Tries Lees, Knowles, Barba 2; goals Richardson 5.
St Helens: Barba; Makinson, Morgan, Costello, Grace; Fages, Richardson; Amor, Roby, Lees, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Ashworth, Bentley.
Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia; Minikin, Webster, Roberts, Clare; Trueman, Gale; Watts, McShane, Millington, Wardle, Sene-Lefao, Massey. Subs: Milner, Clark, Maher, Laulu-Togagae.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas