Ben Barba stars on Challenge Cup debut as Saints beat Castleford

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

St Helens star Ben Barba marked his first outing in the Challenge Cup with a hat-trick to lead his side to a 36-18 win at Castleford.

The Man of Steel favourite scored a length of the field try in the first half as Saints led 12-0 at the break, and he added two more in the second half to send them in to the quarter-finals.

The mercurial Australian got the ball rolling on 16 minutes as he took a difficult kick on his own line and then managed to get the ball free to winger Regan Grace, who had the whole field ahead of him and galloped away for the game’s opening try.

Danny Richardson added the conversion and then tagged on a penalty to stretch the lead to 8-0 on 24 minutes.

Castleford perhaps weren’t getting the rewards their efforts deserved and they were punished again seven minutes before half time as they tried to keep the ball alive on the last close to the Saints line.

After Michael Shenton’s offload, Barba reacted quickest to the loose ball and picked up to go 90 metres despite the best efforts of the chasing Jy Hitchcox on the diagonal.

At 12-0 down, it was hardly the best start to the second half for Castleford when Shenton and Oliver Holmes allowed the kick off to bounce out for a drop out.

They were punished three minutes later when Barba added his second, but Castleford finally got on the board on 49 minutes when Jake Trueman dummied his way through for a try to make it a 12 point game.

But Saints restored their 18 point advantage just minutes later when Barba delayed the pass beautifully to send Ryan Morgan over the line.

Good hands to the right saw Greg Minikin pull another one back for Castleford, but Saints were comfortable and they made the game safe when Danny Richardson dummied his way through for 30-12.

Barba showed yet more magic on the 70th minute to complete his hat-trick, shrugging off several tacklers and not needing the support around him.

Castleford got the final score late on when Mike McMeeken pinched an interception in midfield, but it was Saints’ day and they join Hull, Leeds and Huddersfield in the hat for the quarter-final draw.

Elsewhere, Catalans made light work of the lowest ranked side remaining in the competition, beating Whitehaven 56-10.

Jodie Broughton scored a hat-trick as the Dragons led 24-10 at the break, before scoring 32 unanswered points in the second half.

Castleford: Shenton, Minikin, Webster, Wardle, Hitchcox, Ellis, McShane, Watts, Milner, Sene-Lefao, Holmes, McMeeken, Foster. Subs: Moors, Millington, Cook, Trueman.

St Helens: Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Amor, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin. Subs: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles.

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