Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell admitted the schedule of having to play every week after reaching the Challenge Cup final had ultimately taken its toll on his players as they ended their season disappointingly with three straight defeats for the only time in 2014.
After their big squad had stood them in good stead in the first half of the season the Tigers were running out of players for last week’s elimination play-off against Warrington Wolves with Powell unable to name four forwards as substitutes.
Lee Jewitt, Frankie Mariano, Ryan Boyle, Garreth Carvell, Jake Webster and Dan Fleming were all ruled out of the game through injury then Nathan Massey picked up a knock early on and was unable to return to the field.
It all meant that the head coach was unable to continue the rotation policy that had helped keep his players fresh in the run up to the cup final and several appeared to run out of gas in the Super League play-offs when the Tigers lost to St Helens and Warrington in high intensity games.
“It’s pretty tough playing every week all the way through the year - look at what’s happened to Leeds,” said Powell.
“It’s probably this that got us a little bit in the end.
“We also ran out of troops a little bit. We lost some big men and that tends to take its toll.
“The intensity takes it out on players.
“Emotionally after the Challenge Cup final that’s got to whack you. It’s human nature when you lose a big game like that.
“Then we travel to France and we’re going for the league leaders’ shield. Emotionally again and the heat and the travel, there’s a couple of things there that have just whacked us.
“I think we got up off the canvas and did a good job against Warrington.
“When we started playing we looked like we were going to open them up again, but we just haven’t been able to find the fluency in our game that we had earlier in the season.”
Powell said that despite some adversity with the loss of Massey so early on in the game he thought his side had given it a good go in their last game against Warrington.
He added: “I thought we worked really hard. We got to 12-10 and had a bit of a shot at it. We got some momentum, but we just needed the ball.
“If we had the ball in our hands I thought we were causing them a lot of trouble.
“But defensively we looked tired at times. They’ve got a big set of forwards that punch holes in you and they got us around the ruck for a try that turned the tide away from us when we looked like we were getting a bit of ascendancy after Dorny’s try.
“We had a dig, we were pretty close. It was a great effort and I didn’t think we got an awful lot going our way at times.
“But we had a real pop at it and I was real proud of the effort.
“Our boys have been awesome through the year from start to finish. They’ve had a real dig at it and just weren’t quite good enough to get it done.
“It was not lack of effort, the boys have worked hard all year.
“We were struggling a little bit to get 17 out. That’s why we had Dicko (Kirk Dixon) on the bench, we didn’t have any more forwards left.
“Lee Jewitt couldn’t play, Frankie Mariano was out, then Massey had to come off. We had nobody else left, which is tough.
“Jake Webster plays a bit in the back row and he couldn’t play after his injuries.
“We were struggling a little bit. We’ve had a decent sized squad, but its taken its toll at the end.”