Daryl Powell was left to mull over another near-miss with Castleford after their Challenge Cup sorrow on Saturday, but the Tigers coach acknowledged that he brokered no argument with the result as he championed his side’s commitment against St Helens.
The former Sheffield Eagles and Leeds Rhinos halfback, who looks set to bring the curtain down on a transformative eight-and-a-half year stay at Wheldon Road with the League Leaders’ Shield and a trio of runner-up medals to show for his efforts, further professed his pride for what his players have achieved across the course of his time as coach.
Having led at the interval for the first time in three finals under his watch, the Tigers were unable to prevent a well-managed comeback from Saints across the second half and were kept scoreless under the Wembley sunshine as Saints emerged eventual 12-26 winners.
And Powell accepted that his side struggled to keep cool heads against one of the best in the business.
“You couldn’t fault the boys for effort and commitment, but you probably could for composure,” he conceded.
“I thought Saints had more; they put more pressure on us than we were able to put on them, particularly with the kicking game. I don’t think we finished sets well; we lost the ball, we made too many errors.
“Some of that was due to our lack of execution, some that was due to them being the best scramble defence in the competition. They put you under intense pressure, St Helens. We didn’t really kick a ball. I think the scoreline didn’t show the way the game went, but they defended phenomenally. It’s disappointing, but I’m just so proud we got here.”
Powell too refused to blame James Roby’s controversial try, awarded by video referee Chris Kendall, as the central catalyst for his side’s struggles, adding: “I thought it looked like it went backwards. I thought he’d knocked on, that it might have hit the touchline. There was a fair bit of doubt in there.
“But we’ve got to go and catch the ball; we’ve got to look at ourselves. We were so, so near; we were feeling great at the break and clearly they stepped up again straight after half-time. We didn’t handle that well enough. It could have gone either way and we didn’t get the luck on that occasion.”
Powell will now begin the final months of his spell at his boyhood club, one that has seen Castleford make huge strides forward even as they have come up short on the big occasions – and the coach admitted that no matter the result, he takes great pride from the way his players have stepped up to the plate as leaders on the pitch.
“I’m proud of the boys,” he says.
“We haven’t been able to convert in the finals. We had an opportunity today and we weren’t quite good enough to take it. Saints deserved to win. But the players have put everything into it. I’m super proud of them.”
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