Written by John Davidson
A gutted Michael Shenton believes ball control and kicking were Castleford’s Achilles heel in their 26-12 Challenge Cup final defeat at the hands of St Helens.
Saints claimed their first Cup win since 2008 with Saturday’s win at a hot and dry Wembley.
Tigers captain Shenton says St Helens’ superior kicking game, and his own team’s error rate, proved ultimately crucial in a tight contest.
“I don’t think we started the game particularly well but we grew into the game and in the first half we were on top, for most of the first half,” he said.
“To come out and start so slow in the second half was massively disappointing. To have two very soft tries and the first one, it’s milliseconds isn’t it with Regan Grace’s feet?
“Some of those things go for you and some don’t, but our reaction to that on the inside was slow, you can’t do that a few minutes into the game. So it was just a few errors like that where we let ourselves down.
“Ball control in big games – you can’t do that, you have to kick the ball well. You have to build set from set and they managed to do that and we didn’t.
📸 A memorable Wembley week
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— Castleford Tigers (@CTRLFC) July 18, 2021
“That’s where the game broke done. We gave it a go, St Helens are one hell of a team and if from one to 17 you’re not on it, it’s very tricky to get the result.”
Castleford have not won the Challenge Cup since 1986 and Shenton was a part of the team that lost the final to Leeds back in 2014.
“The effort was outstanding,“ he said.
“St Helens controlled all the territory in the second half and to hold them out, I thought the scoreline flattered with those kicks and Amor’s try at the end, I can’t see how the ref has given that.
“But it’s done and dusted now. We have to kind of get over our bumps and bruises, the hit to our egos as being beat in a final is massively devastating.
“It’s always special to come down to Wembley and experience it. It’s the most famous stadium in the world so to play here in front of your kids and the young Cas supporters who get to come down, I’m just gutted for all our fans and our families that we didn’t get the job done.
“I don’t want to say sorry because I thought we gave it our all, but I really am gutted.”