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Castleford's Mend-A-Hose Jungle played host to a clash between two widely different teams: a home club still struggling to find any consistent form in its 'new era' – despite getting two of their three wins this season over the Easter weekend - and the visiting champions St Helens, who have lost just one game in defence of their title so far and that a surprise loss to basement club Toulouse Olympique.

Following that busy schedule, Saints coach Kristian Wolf names an unfamiliar line-up after the strains of the Easter schedule, with seven young players moving up from the reserves where they regularly play together.

The Tigers' Lee Radford resisted the temptation to make whole-sale changes, but injury meant James Clare started at full-back while youngster Jason Qareqare had his first start of the year on the left wing.

The line-ups highlighted an issue raised by many commentators over the pressure of playing two rounds of Super League in the space of four days - and before kick-off Super League announced that there is no intention of doubling up next Easter.

Qareqare started the game on fire, almost dublicating his debut try against Hull last June when he received a pass on his own 30m and ran along the touchline, beating defenders seemingly for fun to score in the first minute for the second time in his career.

Gareth O'Brien missed the touchline conversion attempt, but 43 seconds into the game, the Tigers led 4-0.

But the Saints youngsters brushed themselves off and a superb piece of defence stopped Derrel Olpherts doubling the score in the other corner with four minutes gone.

Eight minutes into the game, Saints were presented with their first attacking chance when Clare - playing fullback because Greg Eden failed a late fitness test - spilled a high kick. The young Saints skillfully moved the ball across the line but Shay Martyn - son of former Red V favourite Tommy – couldn't beat the touchline and the attack came to nothing.

But the youngsters refused to to be downbeaten and while they couldn't break through the Castleford defence themselves, despite chances, the held the scoreline where it was for the rest of the opening quarter with some outstanding defensive play, including a full set of tackles against some of the Castleford big men on their own tryline.

The kids were doing alright.

The pressure was always going to tell at some time, though. On 25 minutes, they gave away a penalty for offside in front of their own tryline. The team in black and amber took advantage of a compressed defence to move the ball into space on the right where Olpherts ran clear to score in the corner before the defenders could run across and cover. 

Again, the conversion from the edge was missed and the score stood at 8-0.

Saints pressed the Castleford line again as the half moved into its final 10 minutes, but on 35 Jake Mamo showe good footwork to beat Saints defenders in his own half and ran clear to the Saints 10m before passing inside to Jake Trueman who proceeded to ground the ball.

Paul McShane took over the kicking duties after O'Brien's misses and scored from an easier position from nearer the goal for a 14-0 lead.

A promising move on the opposite side looked like it would produce a second try from Qareqare - but a superb cover tackle from St Helens half-back Ben Davies bundled him into touch.

When the whistle came to end the half in the next set, Cas remained in the driving seat at 14-0, though St Helens were once more on the attack and had clearly shown the strengths of the St Helens youth system and the wisdom of Lee Radford's warning to his players not to take this visiting team lightly.

When the game resumed, Qareqare got another chance to score after a pass out to the wing from Trueman - but once more the Saints defence tackled him into touch.

10 minutes into the half though, Cas worked their way round the resolute Saints defence with a sweeping passing movement to the right that saw Olpherts receive the ball on the wing and cross for his second try.

This time, McShane was as unsuccessful as O'Brien with the kick. But the hosts led 18-0.

Quarter of an hour in and the visitors were pressing the line again. First the non-so-young Kyle Amor powered across the line under the sticks, only to be held up, then the ball was passed to the right and winger Jumah Sambour crossed in the corner with the Cas left-edge defence at sixes and sevens.

Now it was Saints - in the shape of Martin - who proved unsuccessful with a touch-line kick.

But the visiting youngsters had their reward for 60 minutes of impressive play in their first points and now trailed 18-4.

Almost immediately, the normally reliable Adam Milner fumbled the ball at dummy half for Cas giving Saints another attacking chance. Second rower James Bell spotted McShane on the trylie and ran at him to score. Martyn converted and at 18-10, Castleford's lead was not looking so comfortable.

But then St Helens made a mistake to gift posession to their hosts within their own 10m. McShane attacked their line, but offloaded to Joe Westerman who powered over to settle the Tigers' nerves with a try, duly converted by McShane to open the lead out to 24-10.

Mahe Fonua was the next to score, with a teasing run infield followed by a charge through defenders to take the score to 28-10. McShane's conversion moved it on to 30-10.

Martyn almost scored the final try of the game in a frantic finish as Saints pressed the Cas line once more, only for Mamo to tackle him into touch. And then the whistle blew.

The Tigers have now won four on the trot and - which looked unlikely when the season started. Saints lost, but are still top of the table and most importantly showed that their future is in safe hands with a youth system producing players who will not be fazed by any opponents.

Full Time: 30-10.

Half Time: 14-0

Score Progression: 4-0, 8-0, 12-0, 14-0 HT. 18-0, 18-4, 18-8, 18-10, 22-10, 24-10, 28-10, 30-10. FT.

Castleford Tigers: Clare; Qareqare (T), Fonua (T), Mamo, Olpherts (2T); Trueman (T), O'Brien; Griffin, McShane (3G), Watts, Lawler, Edwards, Westerman (T). Subs: Milner, Massey, Smith, Martin.

St Helens: Bennison; Sambour (T), Simm, Hill, Martyn (G); Davies ,Moss; Amor, Lussick, Norman, Royle, Bell (T), Wingfield. Subs: Baxter, Pemberton, Delaney, Buckley.

Referee: Jack Smith.

Venue: The Mend-A-Hose Jungle, Castleford.




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Posted by tb on Fri 22nd Apr 2022 7:10 PM | Views : 19996 | Replies : 6 | BACK TO STORIES
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