St Helens coach Justin Holbrook hails side's consistency and character

St Helens lift the League Leaders Shield. Picture: SWPix
St Helens lift the League Leaders Shield. Picture: SWPix

Justin Holbrook hailed St Helens' consistency and character as they bounced back from losing the Challenge Cup final with a slender win over Castleford.

On the night Justin Holbrook's team were presented with the League Leaders Shield and just six days after they were beaten by Warrington at Wembley, Saints survived a second-half onslaught from Castleford to go 18 points clear.

The equalled Super League's lowest-scoring game, Saints' 4-0 win over Celtic Crusaders in 2009.

It is nearly 30 years since Castleford last won in St Helens but they may never get a better chance than this as they failed to find a way through some desperate - if tired - home defence.

Holbrook, whose chairman Eamonn McManus was fiercely critical of cup final referee Robert Hicks in his programme notes, said: "It was obviously a hard week for us and to put in a display like that and show such character was terrific.

"We worked really hard with some tired bodies out there. It was hard to get the players up for the game after the disappointment of not winning the Challenge Cup but the Super League is our main focus.

"The players kept turning up and we needed that. The fans knew how tough it was for us and the way we hung on there was terrific.

"To be the most consistent side after 29 rounds is a huge accomplishment. To play consistently is very hard to do."

Castleford assistant coach Ryan Sheridan could not believe his side had failed to breach Saints' defence despite dominating territorially for long periods.

After James Roby and Mark Percival put Grace over eight minutes before half-time, Castleford forced Saints to concede two drop-outs in the second half with half-back Jake Trueman a growing influence.

"It was a lost opportunity for us," Sheridan lamented. "I am proud of our players - they gave it their best.

"It was a very tough game and a lot went into it from us. We can take a hell of a lot from that performance.

"We created quite a few opportunities but Saints defended really well and were so hard to break down. For us to come away from a champion team like Saints with only a four-point loss is an achievement but disappointing.

"You have got to take your opportunities and our kicking game was a bit off."