Castleford 23 – St Helens 22: Luke Gale’s drop-goal in extra time sends Tigers to final | Other | Sport

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The team from the small former coal mining town in West Yorkshire have never before made it to a Super League Grand Final but it has been a fairy-tale season for Daryl Powell’s men.

A season of such emotion which saw them finish top for the first time in their 91-year history and could now see them crowned champions.

This play-off semi-final was as dramatic as it gets as St Helens conjured an admirable comeback which harvested three tries in the final quarter.

Saints actually outscored the hosts five tries to three but Man of Steel nominee Gale made all the difference with a 15-point haul which included a try, five goals and the vital one-pointer.

Head coach Powell, whose side will face the winners of tonight’s second semi-final between Leeds and Hull, has fashioned an outstanding team and last night’s fraught victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 11,235 underlined their rags-to-riches rise.

Castleford were 20-10 up in the final quarter before Justin Holbrook’s visitors fashioned a stirring comeback which harvested three tries to put them ahead before a last-gasp penalty from England scrum-half Gale sent the tie into extra-time.

Powell said: “What a crazy game. We got ourselves 10 points in front and then couldn’t defend our tryline. We looked a bit shaky.

“I thought Saints had won it but then Luke came up with a couple of bits of class.

“It was really tough to watch to be honest but I’m so pleased to reach the Grand Final.”

St Helens counterpart Justin Holbrook could not hide his devastation.

The Aussie, who took over from Keiron Cunningham mid-season, said: “It’s horrible, It’s hard to take at the moment.

“We were nearly good enough but it’s devastating. It’s a disappointing way to lose. I couldn’t be prouder of the players but the result is hurting.”

Zak Hardaker crossed for Castleford’s opening try after 48 seconds after a fine move which twice involved Gale.

But Regan Grace dived over in the left corner and Morgan Knowles then crashed under the posts to give Saints a 10-8 half-time lead.

After weathering a spell of St Helens pressure, Castleford went 20-10 up with tries from Gale – who broke clear superbly after swapping passes with Greg Eden –  and Adam Milner, before a thrilling climax.

Tommy Makinson and Mark Percival brought the visitors back within two points and Holbrook’s side looked destined for a record 11th visit to Old Trafford when Ryan Morgan touched down with three minutes left to play from James Roby’s exquisite long pass.

However, they gave away a cheap penalty a few seconds before the hooter and Gale held his nerve – on two occasions – to level the tie and then kick the matchwinning drop-goal.

Milner, who enjoyed a superb game, said: “I thought the dream was over but we’re a special team here.

“We needed nerves of steel it’s going to be a special occasion for everyone next week.”

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