That was our best chance of win­ning at Old Traf­ford – Shen­ton

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - GRAND FINAL - DAVE CRAVEN

DE­FLATED Castle­ford Tigers cap­tain Michael Shen­ton feels the club might never “get a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity of win­ning a Grand Fi­nal” af­ter their Old Traf­ford sham­bles.

He was speak­ing af­ter the League Lead­ers’ Shield win­ners de­liv­ered a woe­ful dis­play in their maiden ap­pear­ance in Su­per League’s show­piece, fall­ing 24-6 hav­ing been ut­terly out-played by Leeds Rhi­nos.

Castle­ford – who fin­ished 10 points clear of sec­ond-placed Leeds – were a pale shadow of their usual selves dur­ing a mis­take-rid­den dis­play where they made 18 han­dling er­rors.

Shen­ton, hop­ing to lead them to a first title suc­cess in their 91 year his­tory, con­ceded: “Our per­for­mance wasn’t up to scratch and we saved our worst per­for­mance of the whole sea­son for the big­gest stage.

“We’re mas­sively de­flated. There’s a group of lads in there with their heads down and they feel they have let the fans, the town and the club down.

“You have to give credit to Leeds. The way they built pres­sure as they took ad­van­tage of our in­ep­ti­tude; we couldn’t build any pres­sure as we couldn’t hold the ball. It was dis­ap­point­ing.

“But we have had a good year. Con­sis­tency-wise we’ve achieved a lot and have won the League Lead­ers’ Shield for the first time in the club’s his­tory so there’s pos­i­tives to take.

“But at the mo­ment it doesn’t feel that way. It’s a painful one to take and I don’t think we’ll ever get a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity of win­ning a Grand Fi­nal.”

Castle­ford have been so com­mand­ing and con­fi­dent all year but it was Leeds, with a recordex­tend­ing eighth Grand Fi­nal win, who de­liv­ered when it mat­tered most. Eng­land cen­tre Shen­ton was the only Castle­ford player with Grand Fi­nal ex­pe­ri­ence and it is easy to pre­sume nerves played their part for many of his col­leagues.

“I felt okay out there but of course some of those er­rors and the dropped balls, that lack of con­cen­tra­tion, maybe it comes down to not han­dling that at­mos­phere and a lit­tle bit of nerves,” he ad­mit­ted.

“But you’ll have to ask in­di­vid­u­als. We can’t point fin­gers at any­one, though. We’re a team.

“It’s a great set of lads here at Cas. We’ll stick to­gether and we’ll def­i­nitely bounce back from this.

“We’ve come too far this sea­son to let that go; we’re not one­hit won­ders. The ma­jor­ity of this team are stick­ing to­gether and there’s plenty of pos­i­tives.

“We apol­o­gize to our fans who got be­hind us. Their sup­port has been in­cred­i­ble.”

There was also, of course, the mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor of Castle­ford be­ing with­out their Eng­land star Zak Har­daker, the Man of Steel nom­i­nee who was con­tro­ver­sially dropped on Thurs­day due to a breach of club dis­ci­pline.

Shen­ton, 31, said: “We can’t blame it on that. We haven’t spo­ken about it for the last few days; we’ve moved on.

“We had a great ses­sion on Fri­day, I thought the prepa­ra­tion was good. We were quite re­laxed go­ing into it,

“I thought we han­dled the build-up well but we made too many big, big er­rors in im­por­tant times in the game. Leeds won all the lit­tle bat­tles out there.

“That was not the top-of-thetable team you’ve seen all year.

“We’re go­ing to have some boys go­ing out to the World Cup, then we’ll have a good off-sea­son and get over this.”

CLOSED OUT: Michael Shen­ton is crowded out by Leeds de­fence.

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