The Super Eights arrived with a bang as the champions elect, Castleford Tigers, welcomed a St Helens side striving for a top four finish and a berth in the play-offs.
Remarkably, Matty Smith was back in the Saints line-up after suffering an horrific eye injury in the way game at Leeds Rhinos at the end of June. The Tigers were mostly unchanged with Grant Millington back in the starting line-up and a couple of changes on the bench.
A win for the Tigers would put them just two points from the Minor Premiership, a win for Saints would lift them into third spot ahead of the rest of the round being completed.
After almost relentless pressure on the Saints line by a determined Castleford Tigers it was the Saints who opened the scoring after sixteen minutes when Zeb Taia took a Theo Fages pass forty metres from the Tigers line to zig-zag through the defence and canter over. Mark Percival added the extras and against the run of play the visitors were 6-0 up.
On twenty-one, the lead was extended to eight, thanks to the boot of Percival after Castleford had interfered at the play the ball on their own ten metre line.
Both sides then had tries turned down by the video referee, Amor for Saints for a knock-on and Hitchcox for the Tigers for offside.
Saints finished the half as they’d been for the opening quarter of an hour, putting in a super human effort to deny the Tigers a score and they took the 8-0 lead into the interval.
Castleford got back into the game with the second half seven minutes old when Adam Milner burrowed under the Saints tacklers when he scooted from acting half from five metres to ground under the sticks. Luke Gale added the conversion and Saints lead was down to two points.
On fifty-three James Roby put the Saints back into an eight point lead when James Roby took a Jonny Lomax pass three metres from the Tigers line to crash over under the sticks. Percival was accurate with the boot for 14-6.
A delightful Matty Smith grubber, after an intricate passing move, was chased and grounded by Jonny Lomax with thirteen minutes of the game remaining. Percival added the conversion for 20-6 and the Tigers would have to wait a little longer before their inauguration as Champions.
An airborne Joel Monaghan grabbed Castleford second try of the night when he flew over by the right hand corner flag as Lomax attempted to push him into touch. Luke Gale added the two for 12-20.
Five minutes from time and James Roby sealed the win when he lunged for the line to ground, Percival kicked a simple conversion from under the posts for 26-12.
A superb performance meant that Saints have become the first team to beat the Tigers on their own turf this season, and inflict their largest Super League defeat of the season. The win lifts them into the play-off places and means that the Rhinos could reduce the Tigers lead to eight points with a win over Cup finalists Wigan Warriors tomorrow night. It was an amazing defensive effort from the Red Vee who won a real arm-wrestle of a game against a Castleford side who were hungry for the win.
Saints have set out their stall for a top four finish and a shot at Old Trafford.
Tigers: Hardaker, Monaghan (T), Minikin, Shenton, Hitchcox, Roberts, Gale (2G), Millington, McShane, Sene-Lefeo, Foster, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: Milner (T), Cook, Holmes, Patrick.
Saints: Lomax (T), Makinson, Morgan, Percival (5G), Grace, Fages, Richardson, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Roby (2T), Thompson, Taia (T), Peyroux, Wilkin. Subs: Smith, Walmsley, Amor, Knowles.
Referee: Rob Hicks.