A win would still not be enough to send home side St Helens into top spot as they took on a struggling Castleford Tigers side who came into the game trying to keep alive their slim hopes of an end of season play off place and a shot at Old Trafford for departing coach Daryl Powell.
Saints had James Bentley back in the seventeen but were without the services of Regan Grace who picked up a knock last weekend and was rested as a precaution while the Tigers had O’Brien and Richardson in the halves with Matago and Millington starting in the front row alongside McShane.
The bookies couldn’t see past the thirteenth Saints win of the 2021 Super League season and they had given the Tigers a fourteen-point start on the coupon, the same margin by which Saints beat the Tigers in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in July.
Uncharacteristic poor Saints discipline gave Castleford early chances, but scrappy play from the visitors saw them squander those opportunities close to the line.
Neither side could convert chances until the nineteenth minute when Saints got a set restart in the Tigers line and on the third tackle a flying Jack Welsby grounded one handed by the left corner flag for the opening points of the game. Lachlan Coote pulled his conversion attempt across the face of the goal.
Lewis Dodd put a 40-20 attempt kick out on the full on thirty-two and three tackles in Saints conceded two penalties close to their own line. A set restart, and another penalty for a ball steal, finally saw the Saints dam burst as Greg Eden found space wide down the left-hand side to summersault over the line and ground by the corner flag. Danny Richardson converted brilliantly from the touchline to put the Tigers into the lead going into the sheds.
Derrell Olpherts and Peter Mata’utia both went close to scoring in the forty sixth minute but were denied by a great defensive effort from Saints.
A late tackle on the kicker by James Bentley saw Richardson kick a penalty goal to double the Tigers lead to 8-4 on forty-nine and two minutes later Oliver Holmes went through an enormous gap in the Saints defence off a Paul McShane pass to go twenty metres to score. Richardson added the conversion for 14-4.
After several scuffles referee Thaler finally lost patience and James Bentley and Peter Mata’utia who both saw yellow on sixty-two minutes.
Two minutes later Tommy Makinson was sent off for a late tackle, appearing to contact the head with his shoulder in a badly timed and executed tackle. With fifteen minutes left Saints were now really up against it.
But on sixty-six Alex Walmsley charged for the line from twenty out after tapping a penalty to himself, burrowing under the tacklers to ground. Coote added the conversion to get Saints back within four with twelve minutes remaining.
On seventy-eight Greg Eden scored a length of the field interception try with a sprint down the left wing to seal the win for Castleford. Richardson added the goal for a 20-10 win, the first win for the Tigers at St Helens since they moved to the Totally Wicked Stadium.
This was a sensational win for the Tigers to put a halt to the Saints aspirations of finishing the season at the top of the table. While they don’t improve their league position they do move closer to the Rhinos in seventh and keep alive their hopes of a play-off position finish. Saints will be left to lick their wounds after a loss which few predicted and will look to bounce back against the old enemy, Wigan Warriors, next time out.
St Helens: Coote (G), Makinson (SO on 64), Naiqama, Percival, Welsby (T), Lomax, Dodd, Walmsley (T), Roby, Lees, Thompson, Batchelor, Mata’utia. Subs: Bentley (SB on 62), McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Paasi.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Eden (2T), Turner, Mata’utia (SB on 62), Olpherts, O’Brien, Richardson (4G), Matago, McShane, Millington, Holmes (T), Sene-Lefeo, Smith. Subs: Watts, Blair, Griffin, Hepi.
Referee: Ben Thaler.
Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 4-6 : HT : 4-8, 4-12, 4-14, (SB), (SB), (SO), 8-14, 10-14, 10-18, 10-20 : FT.