Castleford Tigers put up a superb effort in their final home game of the season, but were edged out 42-38 in another thriller with St Helens at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
The result means that the Tigers are now out of the running for the play-offs, but they kept going right down to the wire in a game that featured a number of controversial decisions that frustrated supporters and both head coaches.
In the end one try was the difference with the Tigers scoring six to the visitors’ seven with both goalkickers Luke Gale and Luke Walsh having 100 per cent records.
A remarkable first half saw Cas conceded three tries in eight minutes when they did not touch the ball only to hit back with three well taken scores of their own to level it up.
The Tigers looked pumped up for their do or die game at the start as they forced Mark Percival into touch in his own half from the first set then Ben Roberts’ kick led to a second minute drop-out.
They had a try ruled out by the video referee in the third minute when Andy Lynch dropped the ball trying to catch Luke Gale’s high kick.
But Saints hit back strongly and after Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook was held up over the line by some great last ditch defending by Oliver Holmes they took the lead.
Luke Walsh’s high kick to the corner was not dealt with by Cas and Adam Swift got the ball down in the corner.
Walsh added the conversion and added a second touchline kick six minutes later after Jon Wilkin’s clever pass created space for Swift to charge over again.
When Josh Jones’s well judged pass sent Percival over on 18 minutes and Walsh goaled again it looked like being a long night for the Tigers.
Saints looked to have scored again through Wilkin, but the video referee ruled no try, deeming he had been held up over the line - and this proved the turning point.
Cas at last got their hands on the ball and after Gale’s half-break and offload, Luke Dorn skipped past Adam Quinlan with a clever sidestep and raced in for a fine try, to which Gale added the extras.
Dorn repeated the trick five minutes later after combining with Gale again and Gale’s conversion brought the deficit back to six points.
When Roberts ducked under a tackle and showed good pace to race in for a third home try and Gale goaled again it was all square at 18-18.
Castleford could even have taken the lead in the last minute of the half as Roberts sent an attempted drop-goal wide.
In the second half Saints initially did the pressing, but when the ball went straight to Mike McMeeken he charged 50 metres upfield. He was tackled, but managed to get the ball away to the supporting Roberts, who gleefully raced over for another try converted by Gale.
Back came the visitors and after Alex Walmsley was held up over the line Percival charged over. It looked like Holmes had prevented a score, but it was given after many looks at it by the video referee and Walsh goaled to level the game up again.
It was the Tigers’ turn to score again when they were given a penalty for holding down in the tackle and Gale kicked the goal from 40 metres out.
But they lost the ball from the restart and a few plays later Quinlan charged through a suspicious looking gap with the video referee confirming the score despite plenty of evidence to say it had been obstruction. Walsh goaled to make it 30-26.
While the chants of “cheat” were still going round the ground Saints scored again as Tommy Makinson touched down in the corner. Walsh’s great night with the boot continued and it was suddenly 36-26.
To their credit, the Tigers bounced back as Denny Solomona took Gale’s long pass to score in the corner and Gale added a superb touchline conversion.
However, Saints bounced back yet again with a superb long range move that ended with Swift charging over to complete his hat-trick.
They came close again when the video referee denied Percival for a knock-on although on-field referee Ben Thaler had ignored an early knock-on and forward pass to signal a try.
Still there was time for Cast to make a big finish of it as terrific late pressure eventually resulted in a try for Junior Moors and another Gale goal. But it came just too late to give them a victory their display had deserved and once again they were left questioning controversial refereeing.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Dorn 2, Roberts 2, Solomona, Moors; goals Gale 7. St Helens: Tries Swift 3, Percival 2, Quinlan, Makinson; goals Walsh 7.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn; Gibson, McMeeken, Shenton, Solomona; Roberts, Gale; Lynch, Milner, Millington, Holmes, Moors, Wheeldon. Subs: Boyle, Maher, Springer, McShane.
St Helens: Quinlan; Makinson, Percival, Jones, Swift; Burns, Walsh; Amor, Roby, Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wilkin, Turner. Subs: Richards, Greenwood, Flanagan, Thompson.
Referee: Ben Thaler.