A number of games have been postponed in recent weeks as infection rates rose again but this is the first time this season a match has been called off entirely.
An RFL/Super League statement detailed the “unusual range of circumstances” that left Castleford unable to field a 17-man squad for a fixture which comes barely three weeks before the clubs meet in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
It read: “In addition to a lengthy injury list among their senior squad, the Tigers have a number of young players with first team experience unavailable for selection as close contacts of a single Covid-19 positive – and separately, their Academy squad have all been advised to isolate as a result of two further positive tests.
“The match has been awarded to St Helens with a 24-0 victory because Castleford do not meet the threshold for a postponement under the Covid-19 framework of seven senior players unavailable as a direct result of positive tests or as close contacts.”
It will be infuriating for Castleford, however, especially given they had three players who all picked up injuries when on international duty on Friday night.
Hooker Paul McShane suffered a slight neck injury during his England debut while centre Pete Mata’utia, playing against him for the Combined Nations All Stars, endured a groin problem which left him unable to make the Super League game with a short turnaround of just five days.
Castleford say their prop Suaia Matagi, who also represented the All Stars, aggravated a previous calf injury in that fixture and that now needs to be assessed.
Tigers, who lost 16-6 against Catalans Dragons on Thursday, have listed 17 first-team players who are unavailable for one reason or another.
The West Yorkshire club responded in a statement which read: “Castleford Tigers are devastated Wednesday night’s Betfred Super League match against St Helens has been cancelled.
“The Tigers have just 14 First Team players available for selection for the fixture due to injuries and following a young player within the First Team environment testing positive for COVID-19, which has resulted in seven of our young First Team environment players and joint First Team/Academy players needing to be stood down due to contact tracing protocols.
“Castleford Tigers is confident that it can field a team for the Round 13 fixture of Betfred Super League 2021 against Huddersfield Giants on Tuesday, July 6th.
“This is due to a number of players becoming available following treatment of smaller scale injuries, and more of the Tigers young players within the First Team and Academy environments returning from self-isolation periods.
“The Club unfortunately cannot call upon more of the Tigers Academy for Wednesday night’s match against St Helens due to two Academy players returning positive COVID-19 tests following a game last week, which has resulted in the Tigers Academy set-up being shut down for 10 days.
“All efforts were made by Castleford Tigers to try and get the Super League fixture played, but these unusual circumstances have resulted in its cancellation.”
Against Catalans, Tigers saw captain Michael Shenton suffer a minor knee injury, prop Liam Watts incur a shoulder issue that will sideline him for two weeks and second-row Alex Foster fracture a cheekbone. Loose forward Jacques O’Neill limped off towards the end with a hamstring pull and second-row Oli Holmes was due to be checked tomorrow with fluid around his knee.
Of those previously injured, Tigers say Jordan Turner and Gareth O’Brien both failed their fitness checks today while 17-year-old winger Jason Qareqare has had to self-isolate due to track and trace protocols following a positive COVID-19 test from a classmate at his school.
Other players already absent are Jake Trueman (back), Sosaia Feki (Achilles), Grant Millington (knee) plus Cheyse Blair, Greg Eden and Jesse Sene-Lefao (all hamstring).