It was a short meeting at the BBC when they made the decision to pick the tie of the round as their Saturday game in the sixth round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup. Castleford Tigers, the great pretenders, against a St Helens side who are making 2018 their own in the way that the Tigers had in 2017. The two sides met in the season opener in early February when Saints demolished the Tigers by 46-6, a difficult lesson for last seasons Grand Finalists and one that they have tried to learn from as they have progresses to fifth in the table. Both sides had some injuries but Castleford were suffering the most with the most telling being the loss of talisman Luke Gale and whether Paul McShane could step into his shoes at stand off. It was a robust start from both sides, each had opportunities to open the scoring but defences held firm. The opening ten minutes indicated that this game had all the hallmarks of a classic. He deadlock was broken on fifteen when Saints turned defence into attack. The Tigers had been pressing the Saints line and put in a kick to the corner which was caught, somewhat awkwardly, buy Ben Barba who then offloaded one-handed to Regan Grace a metre from his own line. The speedy Saints winger went the length of the field to ground and Danny Richardson added the conversion for 6-0. A penalty for obstruction on twenty-three gifted Richardson a simple to points to extend the lead and keep the pressure on the Tigers. Saints second try was another length of the field effort, this time from Ben Barba, after Castleford offloaded just short of the visitors line and lost the ball to ground. The St. Helens full back picked up the loose ball and went ninety-five metres to score in the left corner. Richardson pulled his kick wide of the uprights. Except on the scoreboard, there was very little to choose between the two sides in the opening forty. Saints made the most of two chances which the Tigers had gifted them in their own ten metres and it could so easily have been a 12-0 lead for Castleford had the attacking dropped balls gone to hand. Three minutes into the second half Ben Barba managed to keep his little finger on the ball as he stretched to ground on the Tigers line. Richardson added the goal to edge his side closer to the quarter finals. Jacob Trueman went close on forty-six for Cas but the Saints defence held him out. But a minute later excellent feet from Trueman saw him outpace the Saints defence to score by the uprights. Jamie Ellis added the conversion for 6-18. It was brief respite. On fifty-two Barba was the provider as he crabbed across the pitch before finding Ryan Morgan with a late ball to scramble over the line. Richardson kicked the conversion, the lead back up to eighteen points. A reverse pass from Michael Shenton put Greg Minikin free to go in down the right wing and score from ten metres out to keep the Tigers in the game. Ellis kicked from the touchline and the lead was back to twelve points. On sixty-two Richardson hit back for Saints after a great break from Theo Fages and a fast play enabled him to dance through the Tigers defence. He converted his own for 30-12. Ben Barba completed his hat-trick on sixty-eight with a superb solo effort, jinking through a mesmerised Tigers defence to ground after a forty metre run. Richardson added the goal for 36-12. Mike McMeeken grabbed a fifty metre interception try with second left on the clock and when Ellis added the conversion, to the sound of the full time hooter, the game was over with an 18-36 home loss. As the first half had been equally matched, the second was almost entirely dominated by St Helens who eventually strode to victory thanks to some scintillating attacking play and strong defence. The difference between the two side was the mercurial Barba, the player upon which Saints have built their 2018 season. The Tigers will now focus on the top four and a return to Old Trafford, while Saints will already have one eye on Wembley while the rest of the league will wonder how they can stop them. Tigers: Shenton, Minikin (T), Webster, Wardle, Ellis (3G), Trueman (T), McShane, Watts, Milner, Sene-Lefao, Holmes, McMeeken (T), Foster.  Subs: Millington, Moors. Trueman, Cook. Saints: Barba (3T), Makinson, Morgan (T), Percival, Grace (T), Lomax, Richardson (T, 6G), Amor, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin.  Subs: Fages, Douglas, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles. Referee: James Child. Half-Time: 0-12. Full-Time: 18-36. Attendance: .
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