TWO YEARS ago Castleford Tigers reached Wembley and finished fourth in Super League, but boss Daryl Powell says fifth place this season would be a bigger achievement.
Despite an horrendous injury crisis, which began in round one and has continued all term, Tigers are sixth in the First Utility Super-8s table, just one point behind Catalans Dragons.
Tonight’s opponents St Helens, who hold the fourth and final play-offs spot, are out of reach, but Powell is urging his team for a huge effort over the last three games to overhaul Catalans for fifth place.
“I think it’d be an incredible achievement,” Powell said of the prospect of finishing just one position outside the semi-finals.
“We’ve been rattled pretty much all year and it has been tough, but I think there’s been a lot of positives to come out of it – the emergence of young players, growth of depth of our squad and young players getting games due to our injuries.
“While it has been tough, we’ve battled our way to a really strong position, I think.”
The last-gasp defeat at Warrington Wolves three weeks ago was a fatal blow to Tigers’ chances of catching St Helens and Powell added: “Obviously we can’t get fourth now mathematically, but we can have a pop at Catalans.
“We’ve got a couple of tough games with Saints and Catalans away and then finish with Widnes at home.
“It’s do-able. If we can do it I think it’d be some achievement from the boys.”
Saints have his a rich vein of form after a poor start to the year and Powell is not underestimating the size of the task at hand.
“They have really stepped up,” he observed.
“While we’ve been winning they’ve been replicating the same sort of form line.
“They have been good. It would be awesome for us to go there and get a result and give us opportunity of reeling Catalans in which is a real focus for us now.”
Tigers will have to overcome history and the odds to get the points tonight.
They have never won at Langtree Park and their last victory away to St Helens on any ground was 24 years ago.
Forwards Gadwin Springer, Grant Millington and Andre Savelio, who is on loan from Saints, are all unavailable from the team which beat Wakefield Trinity Wildcats six days ago.
Springer suffered a season-ending foot injury in that game and Millington will not feature due to a heart complaint which will require surgery in the off-season.
Savelio is not allowed to play under the terms of his loan deal, so Powell has drafted academy players Connor Fitzsimmons, Brandon Douglas and Luke Million into his 19-man squad. Ben Crooks and Paddy Flynn, who were unused members of last week’s 19, are also in contention.
Luke Walsh and Luke Thompson could return for Saints after two-game bans.
St Helens: from Lomax, Turner, Swift, Walsh, Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Vea, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Richards, Thompson, Peyroux, Fages Greenwood, Owens, Fleming, Ashworth, Knowles.
Castleford Tigers: from Chase, Cook, Crooks, Douglas, Dorn, Fitzsimmons, Flynn, Gale, Hampshire, O Holmes, Maher, McShane, Million, Milner, Minikin, Moors, Patrick, Solomona, Webster.
Referee: Jack Smith (Warrington).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.