Castleford Tigers were denied a famous win over St Helens at The Mend-A-Hose Jungle on Friday night after Adam Swift's late try snatched a 30-28 victory for the visitors, in a controversial affair.
The Tigers were denied on multiple occasions by the officials as St Helens were awarded a number of dubious tries, and late, intense pressure from Nathan Brown's side eventually led to Swift finding room on the wing with two minutes remaining, to the despair of the home fans.
Castleford could not have wished for a better start to the game. The vastly experienced Jon Wilkin knocked on from the kick-off to gift possession back to the hosts, and moments later Jake Webster found himself hurdling over the line to open the scoring.
It gave the Tigers great confidence against the unbeaten Saints and Justin Carney was unlucky not to have an early try on the day he signed a new five-year-deal with the club, after Michael Shenton was deemed to have tipped the ball forwards in the air.
The same two players did combine after twelve minutes though. Marc Sneyd launched a high kick into the sky, and Carney was given the freedom of Castleford to catch the ball before finding his captain, who scored against his former club.
Three minutes later, it was 18-0, and Cas fans were in dreamland. Playmaker Sneyd fed a grubber kick into the posts, and after a bit of pinball at the heart of Saints' defence, Grant Millington got a deserved try, after pouncing on the ball with the instinct of a winger.
Craig Huby was next to reach the line after a marauding run, but he dropped it when he looked destined to score. Saints woke up after this, but Castleford's defence was up to the challenge. Luke Dorn twice skilfully cleared up the mess behind his own line, and Carney proved again that his defending was as good as his attacking.
The try was inevitable for the visitors, and it finally arrived from Sia Soliola, after a ten minute spell of sustained pressure that included some hard hitting from Mose Masoe.
Saints were looking more threatening by the minute, but it was Castleford who were gifted a precious six points, and a 24-6 lead, minutes before the break. Jordan Turner assumed Tommy Makinson was behind him, so when his pass found open air, panic set in the Saints defence. Shenton superbly picked up the loose ball, before showing electric pace to add his second of the evening.
Castleford had another effort denied by the video referee just after the interval, when Luke Dorn's effort was chalked off due to obstruction. St Helens responded with a legitimate try, after Jonny Lomax exchanged passes with Josh Jones, before Lomax himself stumbled over.
Adam Swift then intercepted a pass on the left, which led to a move that put Tom Makinson in. The winger has scored some spectacular tries this campaign, and he added another to his collection with a diving, fingertip effort, albeit with huge question marks over the grounding.
Saints had a penalty on the halfway line on the hour mark, but Wilkin made a second costly error of the evening, when he spilled the ball at the resumption of play. Sneyd found space from the subsequent play 20 metres out, and a kick into the corner was latched upon at a frightening speed by Justin Carney who could finally celebrate, and make the score 28-14.
Swift had a try of his own disallowed for a forward pass, before Turner made amends for his earlier mistake by seizing upon a high Luke Walsh kick, despite an apparent knock on in the build-up. Castleford's defence had to be resilient when Saints persistently knocked at the door, and it was, until Paul Wellens marked a landmark appearance with a trywith six minutes remaining.
Castleford were tired, and St Helens were rampant. Walsh, Roby and Lomax all looked threatening on the Castleford line, but it was Swift who completed the comeback in this classic contest by bursting through on the left, to inflict a painful second defeat of the season on Daryl Powell's side.
CASTLEFORD: Dorn, Clare, Webster, Shenton, Carney, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Millington. SUBS: Milner, Massey, Boyle, Mariano
CASTLEFORD TRIES: Webster, Shenton (2), Millington, Carney
CASTLEFORD GOALS: Sneyd (4)
ST HELENS: Lomax, Makinson, Turner, Dawson, Swift, Wilkin, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Manu, Jones. SUBS: Laffranchi, Walmsley, Greenwood, Wellens
ST HELENS TRIES: Soliola, Lomax, Makinson, Turner, Wellens, Swift
ST HELENS GOALS: Walsh (3)
Referee: Ben Thaler
By Adam Etherington
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