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St Helens ground out a hard-fought 18-12 win over the Castleford Tigers at the PROBIZ Coliseum, but their success came at a cost as Tony Puletua and Ade Gardner were both forced off with serious-looking injuries.
Tries from Gardner, Sia Soliola, Michael Shenton and Francis Meli proved just about enough to overcome a spirited home side, who scored twice through Brett Ferres and made light of the absence of six first teamers with a courageous display.
Saints have now won three out of four under the caretaker stewardship of Mike Rush and Keiron Cunningham, yet they will be sweating on news of Puletua, who made an early exit holding his left arm, and Gardner.
The latter was clearly in pain as he left the field on a stretcher at the beginning of the second half, having come off worse after contesting a high ball with Josh Griffin.
The result ended Castleford's two match winning run, but, with so many players unavailable, coach Ian Millward will surely be proud of their display against one of his former clubs.
There was little to separate the two teams in a keenly-contested opening period. St Helens made a strong start and Lance Hohaia was stopped narrowly short of the line after a superb 40-20 from James Roby in the opening minute. Yet the visitors were guilty of a number of handling errors thereafter, which allowed Castleford to enjoy a spell of pressure.
After Puletua had been forced off, Saints roused themselves and Gardner came close to crossing following fine work from Hohaia and Soliola.
The Tigers remained a threat, with Adam Milner excelling on his return to the side, but it was Gardner who broke the deadlock, the vastly-experienced winger going over in the corner after Gary Wheeler's initial break had opened up a gap.
Castleford briefly turned the tables, Dixon converting a Ferres try that had been laid on by Ryan McGoldrick.
But Saints hit back almost immediately, the powerful Soliola collecting a short pass from the impressive Roby before burrowing over.
Wheeler missed a second attempt at goal and was guilty of further errors; he had a kick charged down and also knocked on.
Yet a dazzling break from the half-back almost led to a third Saints try, before Castleford rallied again and saw Jonathan Walker held up over the line.
There was another blow for the away side at the start of the second half when Gardner was carried off after his collision.
Castleford's first half efforts appeared to be catching up with them, however, and when they coughed up possession cheaply inside their own half, Shenton burst through to make it 12-6, Wheeler once again failing with the resulting conversion attempt.
Meli looked to have made the game safe soon after as he intercepted McGoldrick's pass before sprinting the length of the field for his side's fourth score.
Roby took over kicking duties and made no mistake, but Saints were forced to endure one last flourish from Castleford, who reduced their arrears when Ferres crossed again after a concerted spell of home pressure.
The Tigers, roared on by an enthusiastic crowd, dominated the closing stages, but Saints held onto depart with the spoils.
|6||Hull K R||0||0|
|9||Salford City Reds||0||0|
|Sunday 16th February|
|15:00||Bradford vs Castleford|
|Sunday 23rd February|
|15:30||Castleford vs Catalan Dragons|
|Friday 28th February|
|20:00||Hull K R vs Castleford|
|Sunday 9th March|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wigan|
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