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