Castleford Tigers suffered their first home defeat of 2017 and first at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle for over a year as they suffered a 26-12 defeat to St Helens.
After finishing runaway leaders in the regular season Daryl Powell’s men made a poor start to the Super 8s as they came up against a Saints team that appeared to want the points more in their bid for a play-offs place.
A few things did not run for the Tigers and they were unlucky to see a try chalked off, but could have no complaints about the result.
Cas amazingly failed to score in the first half as they came up against some outstanding defence and their attacking game looked rusty after the week off.
Both sides appeared unlucky to be denied a try by video referee decisions, but there was just one try for the crowd to see in a mistake ridden opening 40 minutes (plus 14 minutes added time for stoppages).
Good defence in the first couple of minutes kept the visitors out as they held the early advantage thanks to a penalty. The Tigers grew into the game and exerted some big pressure without reward.
Joel Monaghan knocked back a Luke Gale high kick, but Theo Fages snapped up the ball only to knock on. Another high bomb by Gale was then taken well by Regan Grace for Saints.
Another promising attack ended when Michael Shenton lost the ball 10 metres out.
The opening score came out of the blue as Zeb Taia suddenly found space and rounded Zak Hardaker with ease for a try converted by Mark Percival.
A penalty goaled by Percival three minutes later made it 8-0 and that was how it stayed to half-time.
Saints were denied by the video referee when Tommy Makinson and Ryan Morgan jumped with Jy Hitchcox for a Jon Wilkin high kick and the ball was collected by Kyle Amor who thought he got over the line.
Several replays resulted in no try being given as the ball was deemed to have gone forward off Saints.
It was the Tigers’ turn to be denied by the video official when Hitchcox got to a Greg Minikin kick ahead and appeared to be onside, but the try was disallowed as chasers on his inside were ahead of the kicker.
Hitchcox had another chance soon after, but was unable to squeeze over in the corner and his offload was gathered by the visitors.
On the next attack Hardaker chose to put in a grubber on the second tackle and the ball ran just too far.
A speculative kick and chase at the other end soon after saw Hardaker race back to get to the ball just ahead of Makinson.
A Danny Richardson grubber was just too strong from the next set and Cas survived.
They came close to their first score again just before half-time as Alex Foster produced a dangerous run only to be halted inches off the line.
The second half saw the Tigers start strongly as a Paul McShane grubber kick forced a drop-out and their pressure eventually resulted in Adam Milner going over from dummy-half for a score at last.
Gale’s goal made it 8-6, but Saints quickly replied as Luke Thompson made a break down the middle. A quick play then saw Matty Smith send James Roby over for a try converted by Percival.
Cas looked to strike back when Hitchcox went for the corner only to be stopped by more great defence. Gale’s grubber kick was just too long soon after.
The match clincher arrived for the visitors on 67 minutes when Lomax touched down Smith’s grubber kick. No video referee was used to determine if anyone was offside this time and Percival’s conversion made it 20-6.
Cas briefly raised hopes as Joel Monaghan rolled back the years, showing some great pace down the right wing and producing a flying finish for a try right in the corner.
Gale added the touchline goal, but the comeback was effectively all over as from the following set Cas knocked on.
Saints then rubbed home their advantage five minutes from time with Roby forcing his way over after dummying next to the line. Percival’s goal completed the scoring at 26-12.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Milner, Monaghan; goals Gale 2. St Helens: Tries Taia, Roby 2, Lomax; goals Percival 5.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Monaghan, Minikin, Shenton, Hitchcox; Roberts, Gale; Millington, McShane, Sene-Lefao, Foster, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: O Holmes, Milner, Cook, Patrick.
St Helens: Lomax; Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace; Fages, Richardson; McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Wilkin. Subs: Smith, Walmsley, Amor, Knowles.
Referee: Robert Hicks.