Frustrated Paul McShane will not be the only person associated with Castleford Tigers who describes their play-offs exit as “devastating”.
The experienced hooker, so central to Daryl Powell’s side becoming challengers in Super League in recent years, fully realises Thursday’s 22-0 loss at Salford Red Devils simply was not good enough.
Castleford’s campaign faded out miserably in the drizzle at AJ Bell Stadium and left players, coaches, staff and fans contemplating what needs to be done to make sure the same does not happen again.
It is the second year running the West Yorkshire club have been kept pointless when their season is on the line having lost 14-0 in last season’s semi-final at Wigan Warriors.
Two years ago all the promise gleaned from a glorious campaign where they finished as League Leaders for the first time was wiped out in a dismal 80 minutes at Old Trafford.
Of course, there are mitigating circumstances here; without key players like Luke Gale, Michael Shenton and Junior Moors for much of this season, they did well to even reach the top-five.
However, having held onto fifth on the last weekend, they then went to Warrington Wolves in the first round of elimination play-offs and defended heroically to knock-out their fourth-placed opponents.
They could not repeat that feat, though, at Salford, whose remarkable surge had seen them claim third place and now leaves them just 80 minutes away from a maiden Grand Final when they face Wigan Warriors next week.
McShane, 29, told The Yorkshire Post: “It is devastating, especially after last week.
“It was a really positive display then but we just weren’t with it tonight.
“We didn’t play like the week before and we probably didn’t play how we trained. But Salford put us under that pressure and they didn’t allow us to play like that so fair play to them.
“You have to give Salford credit; they are a really, really good side and I don’t think teams do give them that much credit.
“They are outstanding, though, and I do feel they are a genuine threat in this competition.”
McShane is right to note Salford’s quality; Ian Watson’s side, made up of many players who were discarded by other clubs or left unwanted, are arguably the biggest story of this Super League season regardless of whether their journey is ended on Friday.
“I was always aware of what they can do,” he added.
“The last time we came here it was a tough game and we got a couple of scrappy tries in that game (that Castleford lost).
“They are a team that do the little things well: they work hard for each other and have smart halves that play the game well, kick the ball well and one to 17 they have a real dig for each other.”
In comparison, Castleford’s halves – Super League’s reigning Young Player of the Year Jake Trueman and Peter Mata’utia – offered little threat on Thursday.
That lack of creativity that has hampered them on so many occasions this term came back to haunt them once more.
England scrum-half Gale has been missing all season due to an Achilles injury and it is expected a move to Leeds Rhinos for 202o will soon be announced.
Castleford have been linked with St Helens’ Danny Richardson but it will be hoped whoever comes in will have better luck with injuries than Gale who also missed much of last year with a fractured kneecap.
Tigers’ confirmed signings for 2020 are Salford duo George Griffin and Derrell Olpherts, Toulouse forward Tyla Hepi and Cronulla Sharks winger Sosaia Feki. McShane added: “There’s definitely a lot of positives to take into next season.
“We played a big chunk of this year without some of our international players and without some big-boppers like Junior Moors and then Jesse (Sene-Lefao) and we lost Mike McMeeken at the end of the year.
“It’s tough going. I think with the lads we had out there (at Salford) we still could have got the result if we’d have played right but we just didn’t. Next year, though, Truey will have had two full seasons of first team rugby so he’s going to be even better going into it.
“Personally, I don’t think I’ve been anywhere near my standards.
“I’ve had a few little niggles here and there but I’m looking forward to the off-season now and getting ready for a big 2020.”
Meanwhile, Castleford are expecting to be fined after a fan – who Powell labelled “stupid” –threw a flare on to the pitch during the final stages on Thursday.