Hooper's spectacular effort keeps Saints' record intact

Castleford 14 St Helens 22
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Jason Hooper scored a spectacular try and set up another equally important one as Saints maintained their unbeaten record last night but were made to fight all the way by the enthusiastic Tigers.

Jason Hooper scored a spectacular try and set up another equally important one as Saints maintained their unbeaten record last night but were made to fight all the way by the enthusiastic Tigers.

Castleford had battled back to 8-12 midway through the second half and were pressing on the St Helens' line when Hooper intercepted Jon Hepworth's speculative pass and went 90 yards to touch down.

Three minutes later, Hooper got the pass away to Paul Wellens and Saints could breath again, although they knew they had been in a genuine contest.

For the first quarter of the game, Castleford had belied their dreadful form so far this season by playing neatly and competently, completing their attacking set and defending enthusiastically when they had to, with a try-saving tackle by Damien Gibson on Willie Talau an outstanding example.

It took 23 minutes for Saints to wear them down, turning down three penalty shots at goal in the process. That enterprising policy paid off when Kieron Cunningham finally took advantage of a tiring defence to drive over the line from dummy half.

Saints should have had a second almost immediately when Ade Gardner broke clear on the right wing but threw a horribly forward pass to the supporting Jon Wilkin.

Further points were not delayed for long, with Saints again spurning the opportunity to kick the goal and getting their reward when Sean Long juggled the ball and then supplied the pass for Wellens, a dangerman throughout, to force his way over.

Long kicked his second conversion from the touch line and Saints then defended strongly to deny Castleford the opportunity to get on the scoreboard before half time.

Long had a try disallowed early in the second half for a marginal forward pass from Paul Sculthorpe. Within a minute, Castleford had celebrated that let-off with Ryan Hudson scoring from Hepworth's clever kick with the outside of his boot.

Wayne Godwin converted the try and also landed a penalty to put the pressure firmly on Saints.

Even after Hooper's intervention had swung the game back Saints' way, Cas showed their spirit and determination by hitting back through Godwin's try and goal with eight minutes to play.

Wellens could have had a hat-trick but a forward pass again thwarted Saints and Wilkin was stopped just short of the line.

Castleford are still without a point at the foot of the Super League table, but if they can produce this sort of effort a victory cannot be far away.

Castleford: Gibson; Saxton, Maloney, Clayton, Rogers; Rudder, Hepworth; Greenhill, Godwin, Jackson, Smith, Thackray, Hudson. Substitutes: Ryan, Lynch, Huby.

St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Albert, Talau, Feaunati; Hooper, Long; Fozzard, Cunningham, Bibey, Gilmour, Joynt, Sculthorpe. Substitutes: Higham, Edmondson, Wilkin, Fa'asavalu.

Referee: I Smith of Oldham.

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