Michael Shenton switches focus to Super League after Castleford’s cup final loss

Castleford captain Michael Shenton has issued a rallying cry following his side’s 26-12 Challenge Cup final defeat by St Helens.

Sunday, 18th July 2021, 9:27 am
Updated Sunday, 18th July 2021, 9:28 am
Castleford Tigers players dejected after the game. Picture: SWpix

As one of three survivors from the Tigers team that lost to Leeds at Wembley in 2014, the veteran centre felt the pain more than most but he insists they will pick themselves up for an assault on the Super League play-offs.

“The season is not done and dusted,” Shenton said. “We’re massively disappointed but we’ve got to fight to get in the top six now. The focus is on moving on from this as quickly as possible.”

Castleford, whose next match is away to leaders Catalans Dragons on Saturday, have lost six of their last seven league games but, thanks to their impressive start to the season, are still within touching distance of the top six.

After squandering a 12-6 half-time lead, Tigers second rower Jesse Sene-Lefao admitted defeat was tough to take but he is hoping it can spur the team on for the second half of the season.

“It still feels surreal to be honest,” he said. “A lot of people sacrificed their time and that’s probably what hurts the most.

“It’s going to take some time to sink in. Everyone says just jump back on the horse but it’s not going to be that easy. We need to get through this feeling of this loss and then turn it around.

“The top six are the goals that we put on the board pre-season and nothing changes.

“We’re going to have to go on a big run now and I reckon this is the time to jump on us. It’s going to hurt but I feel it’s going to motivate the boys to be better.”

Castleford received some consolation in the performance of full-back Niall Evalds who won the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match.

“It’s bitter-sweet,” said Evalds, who was also on the losing side at Wembley with Salford in 2020.

“It’s probably something to look back on and be pretty proud of but at the moment I’m pretty gutted.

“I’ve played three finals now and lost all three so I’m desperate to win one. Everyone’s the same, we want to bring a trophy back to Cas.”

More than 40,000 fans watched Saturday’s game, the biggest crowd in rugby league since the 2019 Grand Final in which Evalds played for Salford against St Helens at Old Trafford.

“I played here last year with no fans and I didn’t get the big game feel, I’ll be honest,” he said.

“It was completely different this time. All the boys were so excited driving into the stadium seeing all fans, you can’t replicate that. As gutted as I am, it was a special occasion to play at Wembley in front of a crowd.”