NEVER mind wanting to win at St Helens, frustrated Castleford Tigers just need a win anywhere.
Their woeful record at the home of the current champions continued last night – they have not prospered at Saints in the league since 1990 – but more worryingly Daryl Powell’s side have now lost their last six matches dating back to September.
A third successive loss this season means it is their worst start to a year since losing their opening four in 2008 yet the West Yorkshire club will know this game should have ended their barren run on both scores.
Castleford had fought back from 14-0 down early in the second half to gain all the ascendancy, Justin Carney’s two quickfire tries after an earlier momentous blunder, leaving them trailing just 14-8.
When Kyle Amor, the St Helens prop, was yellow carded for an ugly “crusher” tackle on Jordan Tansey on the hour mark it should have signalled a timely charge.
However, they proved too lax in possession and instead it was the 12-man hosts who pulled through to maintain their 100 per cent start to their Super League defence.
Castleford forward Grant Millington fumbled trying to fall on a teasing James Roby kick and Mark Percival forced his way in at the corner in the 63rd minute.
He landed the touchline conversion to ease pressure on his side and Jon Wilkin slotted a drop goal meaning Jordan Tansey’s try in the final seconds was scant consolation for the visitors who face another tough examination on Friday when Wigan Warriors arrive at Wheldon Road.
St Helens’ big night last Sunday had gone badly wrong as they were completely outplayed by NRL champions South Sydney in a sobering World Club Challenge, losing 39-0 at the same venue.
There was always going to be a response after that and it was whether or not Castleford could deal with it.
They had their own reasons to flourish, however having endured their own painful nilling at Langtree Park, being vanquished 41-0 in last season’s play-offs as Saints marched onto the title.
It was the home side who took the lead after 11 minutes when Tansey, the full-back preferred to Luke Dorn, made the sort of basic error that has blighted his career, dropping a simple high kick to gift the hosts more possession.
From there, Adam Swift eventually got over, Percival converting, but it was the visitors who then had the greater chances. Saints twice fumbled possession in their own half to encourage Castleford who were further invited to attack by Wilkin’s often inept kicking game.
However, Powell’s side initially failed to make any breakthrough despite a plethora of opportunities..
Junior Moors, the big second-row from Melbourne Storm, was a rumbling threat whenever he received possession, but twice winger Denny Solomona failed to finish off his fine build-up play.
Castleford had two efforts ruled out for forward passes, the first rightly so after Tansey recovered from his early misdemeanmour to usher Mike McMeeken into space for the debutant’s first touch, but the return delivery was not up to the mark.
There was far more debate about the second instance, though, when Liam Finn squeezed a pass off the ground for Ryan Boyle to touch down between the posts. That seemed harsh.
Carney had also twisted over only to be held up by Atelea Vea while Michael Shenton made another clean break only for his inside pass to go to ground.
This proved costly as moments later Michael Channing failed to deal with Travis Burns’s high kick and conceded a drop-out to give Saints some rare pressure. Burns held the defence up perfectly until Jonny Lomax arced around him to ease into the space before the full-back, out of the desperate Tigers tackle, flung the ball wide to Tom Makinson who scored, making it 10-0.
Castleford – who lost Andy Lynch and Solomona to first-half injuries – needed to start the second period well, but, instead, saw Carney implode spectacularly within just two minutes, the Australian opting to throw a long cut-out pass in front of his own posts when returning Burns’s deep kick.
It missed both his team-mates but did find Josh Jones, the St Helens centre who will never score an easier try.
Percival missed a second conversion attempt so it was left at 14-0 and there must have been fears Castleford would fade just like they did here last September.
However, Carney instantly atoned for his error by bravely unleashing the excellent Oli Holmes with another bold pass and, though Tansey was eventually dragged down by Lomax, his side did score on the last play.
Shenton smartly switched behind the ruck to put Carney in at the corner and the 26 year-old winger soon scored his second.
Gale made a break and, though Makinson enveloped the supporting Tansey, Gale launched a crossfield kick for the unmarked wideman at the next play.
Unfortunately, the scrum-half could not convert either but the double blast should have invigorated them.
Instead, though, Saints came to the fore, just when everyone expected them to tire after their exertions last weekend, making it 15 straight wins against the Tigers.
St Helens: Lomax; Makinson, Percival, Jones, Swift; Burns, Wilkin; Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Greenwood, Vea, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Substitutes: Masoe, Flanagan, Thompson, Richards.
Castleford Tigers: Tansey; Solomona, Channing, Shenton, Carney; Finn, Gale; Lynch, Moore, Millington, Holmes, Moors, Massey. Substitutes: Milner, Cook, Boyle, McMeeken.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield)