Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell wants his players to “care” more about defence after their 40-18 home defeat by St Helens.
The Tigers were a shadow of the team that beat Leeds 38-10 in their last match and conceded eight tries in a performance Powell described as “hugely disappointing”.
Castleford’s fragile defence cracked after only two minutes when prop Kyle Amor went over and, although England second rower Mike McMeeken quickly hit back, the home side trailed 22-4 at half-time and were 34-4 down before a late rally brought them three consolation tries.
“I thought we started with a real verve about us with the ball and put them under pressure but we just couldn’t defend,” Powell said.
“Players have got to be able to do their jobs better. Too many of our players have to change if we are to have a chance of doing anything. We cared about defence last year and I don’t think we cared as much tonight.
Highlights of the encounter between Castleford Tigers and St Helens
“We need to work harder and we need to be tougher. We gave Saints 40 minutes of a tough game a fortnight ago and we did it for 20 minutes tonight.
“We’re getting some tough things happening to us, we lost Benny Roberts and had to completely reshuffle and we can’t get a decision going our way. I thought the officiating was as bad as us tonight.”
Roberts, freshly back from a four-match absence with a calf injury, is facing another lay-off with a torn hamstring while prop Junior Moors went off just before half-time with a head knock.
Australia full-back Ben Barba scored his 20th try of the season before hobbling off after 56 minutes but had already been put in the shade by stand-off Jonny Lomax, who scored one try and helped create three others.
Lomax, who still wears the No 1 shirt, was forced to switch positions to accommodate Barba but he could still play full-back for England, according to Saints coach Justin Holbrook.
“I said to him at the start that he is equally as good at six as he is at one,” Holbrook said. “He’s good enough to play them both really well. It’s a luxury for England.
“In the past Benny has got a lot of raps but Jonny was a handful tonight.”
Holbrook said the injury to Barba was not concerning. “He’s fine, it’s just a couple of bumps and bruises,” he said.
Centre Ryan Morgan and substitute Theo Fages both scored two tries as Saints went through the gears to strengthen their position at the top of the table but Holbrook believes there is yet more improvement to come from his side.
“We’re a good side but there are plenty of good sides in the comp,” he said. “I said earlier in the year all the teams will get better as the year goes on and we’re no different. We want to keep getting better.”