BEN ROBERTS left coach Daryl Powell a nervous wreck last night after surely one of the most see-sawing final 90 seconds efforts by one man in Super League history.
The Castleford Tigers full-back ended up a hero as he kicked his first drop goal in eight years in the last second as they finally ended their wretched losing run against leaders St Helens.
Powell’s side looked like they were heading for a 16th straight loss against the champions when Saints full-back Shannon McDonnell latched onto Jordan Turner’s hopeful kick in the 64th minute for a controversial score.
Video officials ruled he was onside but there was plenty of doubt surrounding the decision and Mark Percival’s fourth goal put the visitors 24-22 ahead.
However, Percival was sin-binned for a flop on Denny Solomona and then Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook was penalised for shoving Roberts off the ball as they contended a drop-out meaning Luke Gale levelled with five minutes to go in his 200th career appearance. But ex-Melbourne full-back Roberts looked like he had gifted Saints one last chance as he dropped the ball coming away from his own line – only for James Roby to spill at the back of the scrum and let Castleford off the hook.
They made the most of it with a spectacular breakaway down the right via the excellent Jake Webster and Liam Finn –and Roberts was then on hand to slot the crucial kick as the hooter sounded.
So what did Powell think as Roberts spilled with 90 seconds to go? He said: “With (Saints’) Luke Walsh on the field you’re thinking at some point early in the count he’ll bob one over with no pressure on. But then it was a little bit of ‘Benny Roberts Nooo!’” to ‘Benny Roberts Yesssss!’ in the space of a minute half as he made the error and then put the drop goal over to win it. I’ve only seen Benny drop one goal – that one!
“He did some really good things and was very smart at the time. He’s becoming a really good player for us.
“It was an incredible finish and belief is growing all the time. We were great tonight in lots of areas and we’ve got to be proud.
“Although I didn’t have any energy left at the end as he went for that kick. He hit it real sweet, though, didn’t he?”
It was their first victory over Saints since 2008 and – after downing Leeds a week earlier – means Tigers have defeated the Super League leaders two weeks running to move up to fourth.
Justin Carney, the Australian winger making his return from a dislocated elbow, bulldozed over inside five minutes, somehow ignoring the presence of four Saints defenders in the corner.
It was a superb finish but it was quickly undone as he dropped the restart and allowed Saints to immediately respond via Walsh.
Their defence was too weak as well when Alex Walmsley ploughed inside from Walsh’s drop-off and through Grant Millington’s tackle from 10m out in the 16th minute. Percival converted both but Castleford – seeking a fourth straight win – hit back with a wonder 95m try from Solomona as he picked up a loose ball near his own line and produced a sensational finish to outstrip the cover. Gale improved only to see Carney lose the ball again at the kick-off and Saints once more capitalising through Joe Greenwood for Percival to establish an 18-10 interval lead. It would have been more if not for Roberts’ try-saving tackle with six seconds remaining after the winger had cut inside Webster. Instead, it was the hosts who struck early in the second period when Junior Moors and Andy Lynch both found offloads to leave them stretched. Roberts dinked an angled kick that Webster pounced on, Gale bringing the deficit back to just two.
Then Matt Cook, in his first appearance since an Easter Monday ankle injury, touched down on the hour for Gale to convert, but the lead did not last long as McDonnell supported for his controversial finish.
He then denied Solomona but Percival lingered too long and Saints were down to 12 men leaving valiant Castleford to strike.
Castleford Tigers: Roberts; Solomona, Webster, Shenton, Carney; Finn, Gale; Lynch, Moore, Millington, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Substitutes: Milber, Cook, Moors, Bailey.
St Helens: McDonnell; Dawson, Percival, Turner, Swift; Burns, Walsh; Amor, Roby, Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wilkin, Jones. Substitutes: Masoe, Richards, Flanagan, Greenwood.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Mirfield).