Castleford rejoice with Greg Eden as they end long wait for win at St Helens
10,464 days. 31 years. 34 successive defeats. But all records are there to be broken – and how everyone associated with Castleford Tigers will enjoy this victory, their first in the league at St Helens since 1990 and one that could yet keep their hopes of a first Super League title well and truly alive.
Castleford’s season was sinking without a trace. Defeat at Wembley in the Challenge Cup final, plus seven losses in eight in Super League, left many fearing that Daryl Powell’s final season at his hometown club would end rather meekly, with the Tigers failing to make the play-offs and ending his eight-year spell in charge in somewhat forgettable fashion.
But as Greg Eden raced away in the dying seconds to finally end that three-decade wait for a win here, Powell’s reaction from the stands spoke volumes. He ebulliently punched the air as Eden plucked a pass from Lachlan Coote out of mid-air which could, against all the odds, have snatched victory for St Helens after playing the final quarter with 12 men.
“I thought they were going to get us at the end, but that is a magical play from Greg,” Powell said. “We’ve been written off so many times this year but we are still in this fight, and if we play like that, we’re in with a chance.” There was certainly no shortage of spirit from Powell’s side.
Wins against Leeds and now the reigning champions have reinvigorated their play-off push, taking them to the verge of the top six. But prior to a dramatic final 10 minutes here, this was a frenetic affair for all the wrong reasons. Errors, penalties and a number of cards shown by referee Ben Thaler had threatened to overshadow the contest.
The big talking point came when St Helens’ Tommy Makinson was sent off, heading into the final quarter, for a challenge on Niall Evalds, and at that point, with Castleford leading 14-4, it felt like game over. But this St Helens side are made of sterner stuff than that, and Alex Walmsley’s try set up a grandstand finale. However, it wasn’t to be, and Catalans now have the chance to open up further daylight at the summit with a win against Hull on Friday.
“Our effort to get back into it was terrific, but there were too many errors, and too much indiscipline,” St Helens’ coach, Kristian Woolf, said. His side trailed at half-time here after a low-key opening 40 minutes.
Both sides spurned chances aplenty to score throughout the first half, but the Saints eventually broke the deadlock when Coote’s pass found Jack Welsby, who finished in the corner. But on the stroke of the interval, Castleford went ahead when Eden scored his first of the night, and Danny Richardson converted from the sideline to make it 6-4.
Richardson then added a penalty shortly before converting again when Oliver Holmes broke free to open up a 10-point lead. Makinson’s dismissal seemed to put the game beyond the Saints but they responded well, and Walmsley’s try led to a barrage of pressure. It seemed as though Castleford would buckle, but when Eden intercepted Coote’s pass and raced the length of the pitch, the celebrations from their bench told you all you needed to know.