Yates’ verdict: Holbrook’s praise for Saints’ young guns

St Helens' Matty Lees goes over for a try past Castleford Tigers Paul McShane
St Helens' Matty Lees goes over for a try past Castleford Tigers Paul McShane
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Castleford crumbled like a freshly-baked loaf of bread - run ragged by a Saints’ side which didn’t need to scale any great heights to notch their 26th Super League victory of the campaign in front of nearly 10,000 fans at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night.

Whether it was the kind of challenge they needed ahead of their play-off semi-final showdown with Warrington Wolves only time will tell.

James Roby is tackled by Jesse Sene-Lefao

James Roby is tackled by Jesse Sene-Lefao

Defensively, Saints ticked all the boxes - the only club to nil Daryl Powell’s boys in 3O league matches this season,

It wasn’t always plain sailing early on as the Tigers - hell-bent on ripping up their unwanted record of not having earned a single league win against their rivals when crossing the Pennines since 1990 - posed one or two problems.

But Saints gradually weathered the storm, partially helped when second rower Joe Wardle was sent to the sin-bin in the 21st minute.

By half-time the hosts, who had rested key regulars Jonny Lomax, Mark Percival, Luke Thompson and Jon Wilkin, had established an 18-0 lead and were in cruise control for the remainder of one-sided second half.

Ben Barba goes over for a try against Castleford Tigers

Ben Barba goes over for a try against Castleford Tigers

In all probability the absentees will be in line for a recall against the Wire on Thursday but some of the young guns, who have been given a first team chance in recent weeks, will be knocking on the selection door - giving head coach Justin Holbrook the kind of headache he will relish.

Holbrook said “It was a hard game for both sides tonight and it showed. Neither of us were anywhere near our best and not at full strength but in the end I am happy with the performance. It was great to be able to keep defending the way we did.

“It was an awkward game for both sides with what lies ahead so I was just pleased we emerged with a good win and can now. look forward to the Warrington play-off semi-final.”

The head coach added: “The young lads did well again. Jack Ashworth and Matty Lees have been great while we were able to give James Bentley another run which was pleasing.

“Matty Costello also played at centre and then full back and it’s great to see all these young guys stepping up to the plate and being given an opportunity to play in the first team

“It’s also important that we still win when they are in the side, too. They have done a great job and we have come away with a few wins.”

MATCH FACTS

Saints’ tries: Lees (8 mins), Knowles (25), Barba (35 and 45).

Conversions: Richardson (9, 26, 36, 42, 46).

Penalties - Saints 8, Tigers 6

Half-time: 18-0

Full-time: 26-0.

Referee: Scott Mikalauskas

Attendance: 9,813

Teams - Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 30. Matty Costello, 19. Regan Grace; 6. Theo Fages, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 20. Matty Lees, 11. Zeb Taia, 17. Dom Peyroux, 15. Morgan Knowles. Subs: 14. Luke Douglas, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 21. Jack Ashworth, 24. James Bentley.

Castleford: 36. Peter Mata’utia; 2. Greg Minikin, 3. Jake Webster, 1. Ben Roberts, 26. James Clare; 21. Jake Trueman, 7. Luke Gale; 32. Liam Watts, 9. Paul McShane, 10. Grant Millington, 16. Joe Wardle, 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 14. Nathan Massey. Subs: 13. Adam Milner, 23. Mitch Clark, 25. Will Maher, 34. Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e.