Cup Final loss for Tigers
Posted: Saturday 17th July 2021 - 5:29 PM
Castleford Tigers battled but were defeated 12-26 by Saint Helens in the Betfred Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
Castleford head coach Daryl Powell welcomed back a number of first team regulars who had been side-lined through injury recently. Tigers’ semi-final hat-trick scorer Jordan Turner started out on the left wing and Golden Point hero Gareth O’Brien returned to the line up after a spell out.
Gareth O’Brien got the game underway as the ball spiralled into the thick smoke from the large fire cannons prior to kick-off and the match began with the sides trading sets at an incredibly high tempo.
Castleford were put under severe pressure just over five minutes in after a penalty along with a six again call got Saint Helens within scoring range. However, the Fords were clearly up for the defensive effort, putting in some incredible hits near their try line.
The Tigers went up the other end of the field shortly after but a Paul McShane kick towards the corner had too much power behind it and trundled out behind the posts.
Saints’ early pressure paid off as Cas were forced to drop out after Peter Mata’utia was pushed back behind the line after retrieving a kick. Saint Helens went close through Mark Percival who made a burst for the line, but they then got a bit fortunate in the move that followed as a Jonny Lomax chip forward rebounded off the post and into the hands of Theo Fages who was in the right place at the right time. Lachlan Coote made no mistake with the first conversion of the game.
Castleford were still struggling to get out of their own twenty after a penalty given against Turner gave Kristian Woolf’s side a fresh set of six within the Tigers’ 20. Fortunately, as the play shifted out to the left-hand side, Saints fumbled the ball forward.
After doing brilliantly to soak up the pressure Cas provided the perfect sucker punch and levelled the final. The ball was handed to Niall Evalds who stepped passed a defender and gave the ball to Mata’utia who sprinted towards Saints’ 20 metre line. Tigers’ #3 then provided the perfect kick through back to Evalds and the full-back showed his rapid pace to score. O’Brien added the two points from the tee to take the scores to 6-6.
The tide of the game had turned, and the Castleford end of Wembley Stadium was raucous as Evalds and Michael Shenton almost broke through from close in.
Cas grabbed their next opportunity in Saints territory with both hands as they turned the game around and took the lead. A searching high boot from O’Brien was gladly met by the hands of Jake Trueman for the stand off to touch down as the Cas crowd went wild. O’Brien made it two from two from the tee.
Saints looked to respond as the remaining minutes of the first half ticked away as they broke the line only to be denied by a fantastic tap tackle by O’Brien. St Helens recycled the ball and Fages poked a kick through but the #7 put too much on it and Derrell Olpherts watched the ball role out of play.
With two minutes left of the first half the Tigers were finishing the half strongly. A great set put them within touching distance of the line and a trademark McShane kick through had to be touched down by St Helens to drop out.
Liam Moore blew the half-time whistle with the scores reading 12-6 to Castleford Tigers.
Saints came out for the second-half seeking revenge and responded two minutes into the second period. A high kick towards the far touchline caused confusion in the Cas defence, Regan Grace patted the ball back in play and James Roby collected to scoot over. The video referee checked for an infringement in the play, but the try was given. Coote slotted his conversion through the posts to get the fixture back level again.
Seven minutes later and the reigning Super League champions took the lead after a penalty got them some good field position inside the Fords’ half. Interchange Jack Welsby took the play across the field and provided the perfect pass for Tommy Makinson to dive over in the corner. Coote missed his conversion from out wide.
Cas were still determined despite going behind on the scoresheet and were given an opportunity to attack the Saints line via a knock on after an O’Brien kick was fumbled. The Tigers probed but were not able to make the most of their attack as Olpherts was barged out of play on the far touchline.
15 minutes remained in the final and after a Mata’utia block on a Saints player, Coote decided to have a go from the tee. This time the Saints full-back kicked well to extend their lead to 12-18.
Frustratingly Castleford turned down a good chance to put Saints under pressure as they won the ball back well inside the opposition 20. Evalds ripped a pass out to the left to captain Shenton, although the centre could not keep hold of the ball as he was tackled.
Cas gave away a penalty 15 metres from goal and Saint Helens elected to kick once again and Coote was clinical to take it to a two-score deficit.
Moments later Castleford were penalised again, this time for contact from Shenton whilst a Saint Helens player was in the air receiving a drop out. Coote went to the tee once more, however, dragged the ball wide on this occasion.
Saints were not letting Cas off the hook as the match entered the final few minutes as they kept the Tigers penned in on their line. A chip in behind looked to have been cleared by Olpherts but the ball bounced to Welsby, although the #18 was held up.
Castleford couldn’t keep the Saints out and the pressure told as Kyle Amor powered through some tired Cas bodies to charge over the line. Coote added the extras to give Saints clear breathing space at 12-26.
The game drifted towards its conclusion and Saint Helens saw the match out to claim victory in the Challenge Cup Final.
Full-time: Castleford Tigers 12 – 26 Saint Helens
Castleford: Evalds, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Turner, Trueman, O’Brien, Griffin, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Sene-Lefao, Massey
Interchanges: Watts, Milner, Foster, Smith
Tries: Evalds, Trueman
Conversions: O’Brien (2/2)
Saint Helens: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Thompson, Batchelor, Knowles
Interchanges: Lees, Amor, Paasi, Welsby
Tries: Fages, Roby, Makinson, Amor
Conversions: Coote (3/4)
Penalties: Coote (2/3)
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