Despite the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, The Jungle was packed full as the Castleford Tigers welcomed St Helens to West Yorkshire, with the reigning Champions looking to bounce back from a defeat against Huddersfield Giants.
With plenty of support behind the home side, they broke through on the right hand edge, with Derrell Olpherts dotting down after holding off a number of Saints defenders.
Unfortunately for the winger, play was brought back for obstruction in the build-up.
The visitors hit back with a chance of their own though, as Lachlan Coote’s reverse kick dribbled across the dead-ball line just before Theo Fages got his hand to it.
Danny Richardson was determined to show his old club why they never should have let him go, and his flat ball to Peter Mata’utia brought about the first try of the game,
Mata’utia still had plenty of work to do though and he carried Jonny Lomax, Jack Welsby and Coote with him as the stretched the ball over his head to score.
Strong defence from Cas was being backed up by quick play-the-balls causing Saints to concede penalties in abundance.
Three back-to-back penalties for the home-side put them in good field position, but a sloppy fifth tackle play didn’t bring any extra points.
In the 20th minute, a second try was scored by the Tigers. Strong carries by the forwards, created a platform for Richardson to pick his pass, linking up well with Mata’utia and Jordan Rankin to release Derrell Olpherts in the right hand corner.
Saints were struggling to keep up with a resurgent Cas side, and errors that wouldn’t usually be made were coming thick and fast from the Champions.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors as Matty Lees caught Jordan Rankin high as the full-back claimed a fifth tackle kick. With the contact to the head, the young prop was given a yellow card by referee Liam Moore.
The extra man seemed to pay dividends to Cas, as Derrell Olpherts flew over in the corner once again. Despite the best efforts Jonny Lomax in the covering tackle, Olpherts managed to keep both feet in the air before the ball touched the white line, in a spectacular finish by the winger.
With four minutes until the break, the Saints were once again trapped inside their own half, and were desperate for the half-time whistle.
Despite struggling in the opening half, the visitors did manage to get on the board.
Tommy Makinson was on the receiving end of a miss pass from Lachlan Coote which caught James Clare off guard, and grounded the ball despite the best efforts of Trueman in defence.
HALF-TIME: Castleford Tigers 14-4 St Helens
Early in the second half, Saints found themselves deep inside the Tigers half, and with the visitors back to a full-compliment, they seemed to pick up a second try.
Regan Grace found himself in limited space, so kicked back infield, after a context between Rankin and Fages, the loose ball was dived upon by Welsby.
Rankin managed to ground the ball before the Frenchman, and Cas cleared their lines with a goal-line drop out.
With Richardson running the show against his former side, exception was taken by Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
LMS caught the half-back late and high after a fifth tackle kick, and Saints found themselves down to 12 once again.
The expansive Tigers play was just too much for Saints to handle but poor fifth tackle plays from the Cas was letting Saints off the hook.
With half an hour still to go, Saints were desperately attempting to break through the Cas defence, but the home-side held on once again, but they did manage to maintain the 10-point deficit during LMS’ spell in the bin.
That 10-point deficit quickly turned to 14 though, as Cas shifted the ball from the left edge out to the right, and Cheyse Blair picked up a try of his own after breaking through the tackle of Welsby and Lomax.
With so much talent in the visitors armoury, and still 20 minutes remaining, the phrase ‘never write off the Saints’ was being murmured.
Daryl Powell’s side were attempting to put paid to that idea though. A high tackle from James Roby of Jake Trueman allowed Richardson to add a penalty goal to make it 20-4 after 65 minutes.
A few moments later, Saints conceded a penalty in front of the posts, and Richardson once again added two points from the boot. This score pushed Cas three converted tries ahead.
With 8 minutes left of the game, Saints found themselves camped on the Tigers try-line and Welsby found himself in plenty of space on the left edge and cantered over the line.
Makinson failed with the conversion, leaving Saints still needing three scores to pick up a victory.
The slim chance of a comeback was swiftly stopped Paul McShane kicked ahead a dropped ball by Fages, the ball ricocheted off the bottom of the posts and Jake Trueman picked up the bouncing ball and dived under the posts to score.
A consolation try from the visitors followed, as Alex Walmsley runs at the gap left by the offside Nathan Massey, and after finding just Rankin ahead of him, pops the ball inside the Luke Thompson to ran under the posts to score.
After a little bit of handbags between Jesse Sene-Lefao and Walmsley, a sloppy end to the game ensued.
heading into the final 30 seconds, Cas found themselves with the ball deep inside the Saints half, and attempted to put the cherry on top of a great performance but after a double knock-on the full-time whistle was blown.
This is Saints fourth defeat of the season, as many as they picked up in the whole of 2019, as Kristian Woolf looked to find a way to make his players perform to the same level of last season.
For Daryl Powell, his side jump to second in the table, behind Wigan Warriors on points difference.
FULL-TIME: Castleford Tigers 28-14 St Helens
Rankin, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Clare, Trueman, Richardson, Watts, McShane, Griffin, Blair, McMeeken, Massey
Interchanges: Millington, Milner, Sene-Lefao, D. Smith
Tries: Mata’utia, Olpherts (2), Blair, Trueman
Goals: Richardson (3/6)
Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Welsby, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles
Interchanges: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lees, Amor, A. Smith
Tries: Makinson, Welsby, Thompson
Goals: Makinson (1/3)
Referee: L. Moore
Touch Judges: D. Bowmer, M. Griffiths