Jonny Lomax provided a Man Of The Match performance for St Helens as they recorded their third successive win against Castleford this season in a 40-18 thrashing of last year’s Grand Finalists.
St Helens started quickly, as they have done so often this season, and capitalised on soft Castleford defence with Kyle Amor crossing just three minutes into the clash.
Castleford, however, seemed somewhat shocked into action and replied with a much invigorated effort that culminating in Mike McMeeken crossing the whitewash.
Despite McMeeken appearing to provide a messy effort in the act of scoring, Chris Kendall provided a shock decision to award the try without consulting the TMO. Nevertheless, Kendall ended up red-faced with replays showing a clear knock on and therefore a no-try.
McMeeken’s contentious try turned out to be the last Castleford points of the half, with St Helens scoring three unanswered tries to go into the half time break 22-4 up.
In the first of which, Ben Barba provided a try of the season contender with a near full-length of the pitch effort to cross, while Saints capitalised on favourable refereeing decisions to cross through Jonny Lomax a short while later. Dominic Peyroux capped of a sublime attacking half for Castleford with a short range effort after a deft assist from Jonny Lomax.
The second half started much as the first half did with Ryan Morgan crossing for a quick fire double within the first dozen minutes. Theo Fages crossed just eight minutes later and Danny Richardson’s kicking woes continued with only three from seven.
St Helens began to coast and the intensity of the match somewhat dropped off, however, Castleford provided a considerably comeback in the last 20 minutes of the game.
Jy Hitchcox scored his second in as many games off an opportunistic chip from Paul McShane and Jake Trueman followed up just five minutes after. Oliver Holmes continued his try scoring duel with Hitchcox and punched a hole through the weakening St Helens defence to cut deficit to 16.
St Helens, however, didn’t collapse and capped off a great win with Jonny Lomax creating yet another try, this time for Theo Fages.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Specsavers remains the most ironic sponsor in the history of sport
Since their inaugural sponsorship of referees at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, the optical retail chain’s slogan “should’ve gone to specsavers” has been used in jest throughout the game.
Chris Kendall’s decision to award McMeeken’s (knock-on) try, just feet away from him only reinforces, and is emblematic of, the comical relationship between the two parties.
While it highlights the bigger issue of the standard of refereeing in Super League, the image of a referee intently analysing an event and then making the wrong decision, with Specsavers emblazoned on his shirt, certainly continues to make for desperately hilarious viewing.
Forget Barba (don’t actually), Holbrook is the real MVP
Sent off as a 6-point favourite with the bookmakers, St Helens certainly over-performed the general expectations in their third meeting with Castleford this season. In fact, over the whole season St Helens are 11-5 against the spread (ATS), which shows they are generally out-performing expectations and are constantly under-rated within the competition.
This performance only consolidated their supremacy in the competition and it can be argued that they look more threatening than Castleford of last season.
Interestingly, they are one win better of than Castleford were at this stage last season and have won 25 of 34 since Justin Holbrook took charge last May.
With very few changes to the squad he inherited from Kieron Cunningham’s regime, he has managed to restore Saints as a dominant force in Super League and in the process, highlighted his exceptional quality as a head coach.
Man Of The Match – Jonny Lomax (St Helens)
Jonny Lomax provided a stellar performance in the Saints backs division, denying Ben Barba of yet another Man of The Match medal despite him scoring a length of the pitch individual try.
This only further highlights the exceptional nature of a Lomax performance that comprised of 3 try assists and 1 try himself along with a stack of running metres. He once again showed he is a class act and an integral part of the St Helens outfit. He will be essential if Saints are to do the double this season.
Tries: McMeeken, Hitchcox, Trueman, Holmes.
Drop Goals: n/a
ST HELENS 40
Tries: Amor, Barba, Lomax, Peyroux, Morgan (2), Fages (2).
Goals: Richardson (4)
Drop Goals: n/a
CASTLEFORD TIGERS: Shenton, Minikin, Roberts, Foster, Hitchcox, Ellis, Trueman, Watts, McShane, Sene-Lefao, Holmes, McMeeken, Milner. Replacements: Moors, Millington, Massey, Cook.
ST HELENS: Barba, Swift, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Amor, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin. Replacements: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles.
Referee: Chris Kendall