Castleford were left counting the cost of a first Super League defeat of the season after losing three key players to injury as they went down 28-22 at St Helens.
Stand-off Ben Roberts went off with a foot injury after 23 minutes which left the Tigers a playmaker short, and they also lost forwards Grant Millington (hyper-extended elbow) and Junior Moors (displaced hand fracture) in the.second half
“There are a lot of injuries around in Super League at the moment and we’ve picked up three which could be really costly,” said coach Daryl Powell. “They are key players for us.
“Obviously it’s very difficult when you lose a half-back who is on top of his game. We had just scored a try and I thought we were on top at that point. We were down to one sub for the last 30 minutes which is tough.”
The loss of Roberts will pave the way for Ryan Hampshire to make his debut for Castleford after having had to bide his time since joining the club on a season-long loan from Wigan.
“Ben’s done something to his foot, whether it’s a ligament or a break, we’re not sure yet,” Powell said. “He needs a scan. It could keep him out for a while.”
Despite being under pressure for most of the game - they conceded six goal-line drop-outs in the first half alone - the Tigers were on course for their first away win over St Helens for 24 years when tries from Millington and Mike McMeeken put them 14-6 up.
However, their extensive defensive efforts gradually took its toll and centre Matty Dawson scored two tries as Saints established a grip on the game and surged into a 28-16 lead before hooker Adam Milner went over for a third Castleford try seven minutes from the end.
“I thought it was a tough team effort to hang in there and almost get something out of the game at the end,” said Powell.
A third win from their first four games keeps St Helens in touch with leaders Warrington and delighted coach Keiron Cunningham.
“It seems like these Saints-Cas games are turning into epics every time we play,” he said. “They are two very good attacking teams.
“I thought we controlled the game for a little bit better for larger periods and that was the difference. Our halves kicked the ball really well and we were a little bit more disciplined in defence.
“The biggest thing we’ve got to learn is to stay in the arm wrestle for longer periods.
“Castleford are a very good side. I’m pleased for my players and proud of them for hanging in there for 80 minutes.”