After a highly impressive 38-10 victory over rivals Leeds at last week’s Magic Weekend, many felt that Castleford had turned a corner after a season’s best performance. Their victory showcased the Tigers at their best and, at times, looked like the team that took Super League by storm last season.
However, they came back down to earth with a thud last night after a humbling defeat at home to league leaders St Helens who beat Cas for the third time this season and, in turn, put forty points on them for the second time in 2018. When the Tigers lost 36-18 in the teams’ recent Challenge Cup match, at least the 2017 Grand Finalists put up a fight. Daryl Powell, however, bemoaned his side’s performance in last night’s defeat and reserved his most damning criticism for their defensive efforts. Speaking after the loss, the reigning coach of the year admitted that it was a hugely disappointing evening. “We’re getting some tough things happening to us. We lost Benny Roberts again which meant a complete reshuffle with no Jake Webster or Joe Wardle (at centre) so that put us out of sync completely,” he explained. Powell, though, was keen to point out that wasn’t an excuse, continuing that “I watch (depleted) Hull at the moment and I think they have some balls about them. I don’t think we have any when we get put under pressure by the better teams.”
Seething at the manner of defeat, the former Featherstone Rovers head coach added that “I don’t think we have high standards at the moment. We’ve got too many players who don’t really care about defence. We cared about defence last year and I don’t think we do at the moment.” Castleford’s defence last year was, indeed, exemplary and ensured that the team very rarely had to chase games. The fact he doesn’t feel his team have the strength of character to cope with strong teams’ pressure on them is something that will concern Tigers fans. “We need to work harder and we need to be tougher for eighty minutes. We gave Saints forty minutes of a tough game a fortnight ago (in the Challenge Cup) and we did it for twenty minutes tonight,” he expressed. Producing an eighty minutes performance is vital for Cas – if they are to return to the top four and better their ending to 2017 this year, it is simply a must.
That last point is one Powell further embellished, warning that “too many of our players have to change – they have to change – if we are to have a chance of doing anything.”