Castleford Tigers were brought down to earth with a thump as veteran captain Paul Wellens saw St Helens regain top spot in the First Utility Super League.
The Tigers went into the game on the back of a 46-4 rout of Wigan, and looked to be in this game as they trailed 16-4 just before half-time.
But Castleford – without leading tryscorer Justin Carney, who withdrew on the morning of the match through illness, and they lost right winger Kirk Dixon with an eye injury at half-time – were punished after an error from James Clare.
The left winger was brought in at short notice to take over from Carney and it was his blunder that provided the turning point, when he gifted a try to Wellens by attempting to keep the ball alive near his own line.
“James showed a lack of composure and I thought it summed up our first half,” coach Daryl Powell said
“I thought we were pretty dumb to be honest. We were in the game and making line breaks consistently but we came up with some poor decisions on back of them.
“We didn’t give ourselves chance to get into the game.
“We couldn’t get a penalty all game – we got one on 71 minutes which was remarkable – but we made too many errors and that try just before half-time was a real hammer blow. St Helens were excellent. (Luke) Walsh was superb and put us under pressure with his kicking game but I thought we were pretty poor.
“There was a lack of energy and a lack of communication. It was one of those tough days at the office and we’ve two on the spin now and obviously questions get asked,” added Powell, who saw his side pick up tries from Dixon, Luke Dorn and Marc Sneyd, who also kicked two conversions.
Saints were back to their best as they bounced back from the humiliation of their 42-0 hammering by Catalan Dragons, running in seven tries against a disappointing Tigers outfit.
“We’re really happy,” Saints coach Nathan Brown said. “We surrendered a couple of tries at the end but as a whole for 70 or 75 minutes, I thought we were by far the dominant team.”
Saints’ man of the match was Wellens, who scored two first-half tries and slotted effortlessly back into his old full-back role in the absence of Jonny Lomax.
With Lomax ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a knee injury, the 34-year-old Wellens will keep the job for the rest of the year and is certain to be offered a new contract for 2015.
“We haven’t spoken to him about that yet,” Brown said. “But he’s playing well and it’s obviously a conversation that we’ll be having shortly I’d imagine. With his performances and his durability and what he contributes to the club, it’s obviously something we need to look at.
“The effect he has on his team-mates is even better than the way he plays.”
Mark Percival also scored two tries, Tom Makinson took his tally for the season to 15 and scrum-half Luke Walsh contributed 14 points with a try and five goals.
St Helens: Wellens, Makinson, Turner, Percival, Dawson, Hohaia, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wilkin, Flanagan, Soliola. Substitutes: Manu, Richards, Thompson, Savelio.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn, Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Clare, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Millington. Substitutes: Massey, Mariano, Ellis, Jewitt.
Referee: R Silverwood (RFL).