Hammond stands tall as Cas refuse to lie down

St Helens 42 Castleford 16: Rugby League
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The Independent Online
Although it finished up looking like a routine pre-Wembley run-out for St Helens, Super League's bottom club, Castleford, showed their new coach that they are not entirely a hopeless case at Anfield yesterday.

Karle Hammond underlined his value to Saints with a hat-trick of tries, while there were other fine performances from Paul Newlove and Apollo Perelini. Overall, however, Saints were less convincing than the scoreboard suggests and Stuart Raper, newly arrived from Australia to take up the reins at Castleford, at least got the enthusiasm he had been calling for.

That appetite was enough to knock Saints out of their stride in the early stages, with Castleford taking the lead from Danny Orr's penalty. The tide did not turn Saints' way until Castleford's loose forward Brendon Tuuta sent to the sin bin after 20 minutes. Even then Cas went close through Dean Sampson and Andrew Schick before Saints capitalised, Bobbie Goulding's reverse pass sending the menacing Newlove striding in.

Jason Lidden and Orr both went over Saints' line without being able to ground the ball, but then Saints took decisive control, Perelini standing in the tackle to give Hammond the first of his three. When Goulding's pass released Newlove before half-time and then his kick bounced perfectly for Tommy Martyn soon after, Saints appeared to be romping away.

Yet Cas showed a level of commitment that impressed their new coach, two kicks from Mike Ford setting up tries for Adrian Vowles and Simon Middleton. "I can't fault them for effort and I'm confident that we will get off the bottom of the ladder," Raper said. The problem so far this season has been sustaining that effort, however, and it was predictable that Saints would again take command in the final quarter.

Hammond set up Steve Prescott and then claimed his own second after terrific work by Perelini, followed by his third as a result of Ian Pickavance's break.

Orr went over near the end to emphasise Castleford's resilience, but the good news for Saints' coach, Shaun McRae, was that his side had come through with no further injury worries for the days leading up to the Silk Cut Challenge Cup final.

A crowd of more than 12,000 at one of football's shrines can be pronounced a success. Saints will be back, but so, in another sense and if they can build on the spirit they showed yesterday, will Castleford.

St Helens: Prescott; Arnold, Haigh, Newlove, Sullivan; Martyn, Goulding; Perelini, Cunningham, O'Neill, Joynt, Morley, Hammond. Substitutes used: Matautia, Northey, Pickavance, Anderson.

Castleford: Steadman; Roach, Gay, Vowles, Middleton; Orr, Ford; Sampson, Russell, Sykes, Lidden, Schick, Tuuta. Substitutes used: Tonks, Harland, Edwards.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).