IT IS win or bust for Castleford Tigers tonight, but Jordan Rankin is happy matters are in their own hands.
Tigers go into the penultimate round of the regular season sixth in Betfred Super League, one place and two points behind this evening’s visitors Hull.
Castleford are also one win adrift of Salford Red Devils and Warrington Wolves, but those teams have a far superior points difference so Tigers will effectively be out of play-offs contention if they lose.
However, because their for and against is better than Hull’s, a win would lift them into fifth and Rankin reckons if they can qualify for the post-season series they will have a realistic shot at winning it.
The former Hull full-back/half-back said: “It has been in our hands for a number of weeks now, but all we can do is win games and put ourselves in the best position to move up the table.”
Hull’s attack has been slightly more potent than Cas’ this year, but Tigers have conceded 182 fewer points than the East Yorkshire team.
“We have done pretty well over the last month,” Rankin said of Castleford’s defensive effort.
“We have only conceded two tries – we kept London to one try, nilled Huddersfield and kept St Helens to one try.
“Defensively we have been pretty good and that is what wins you games.
“We have found a bit of a groove with our defence and hopefully we can continue that.”
If they do qualify, Tigers will face a tough route to Old Trafford, but Rankin insists they have nothing to fear.
“We don’t think any team is above us when it comes to our potential to reach a Grand Final,” he said.
“At this time of the year you have got to treat every game as if it could be your last.
“We know we are good enough to make the Grand Final, it is about us putting in good performances on the field.
“Hull always put in a good performance against Cas and they will be up for the game.
“They are a dangerous team and we know it is an important game for both sides.”
Rankin joined Tigers on loan from Huddersfield Giants at the start of this season.
He said: “I love being at this club, I love playing with these boys and being coached by the coaching staff.
“At the moment I am contracted here until the end of the year and I am still contracted to Huddersfield for next year.
“It all depends on how their situation goes for the rest of the year and we will see what happens after that.
“At the moment I am more focused on getting through this season and everything else can sort itself out after that.
“Once Huddersfield know where they are sitting we will sit down and see what that looks like for myself and the club.
“My priority is playing for Cas at this time and hopefully that means playing through for a Grand Final.”
Matt Cook is back in contention for Tigers after illness.
Will Maher and Calum Turner are also vying for a call-up, with Jacques O’Neill dropping out from the side beaten at St Helens.
Stand-off Albert Kelly, second-row Mark Minichiello and winger Ratu Naulago have recovered from injury and are set to return for Hull. Josh Griffin and Masi Matongo retain their place in the initial 19 despite not being selected for the team which lost to Huddersfield Giants last week.
Kieran Buchanan, Jordan Lane and former Castleford forward Joe Westerman drop out.
Castleford Tigers: from Blair, Clare, Cook, Ellis, Holmes, Maher, Massey, Mata’utia, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Rankin, Sene-Lefao, Smith, Trueman, Turner, Watts.
Hull: from Shaul, Faraimo, Tuimavave, Griffin, Kelly, Sneyd, Taylor, Houghton, Bowden, Minichiello, Connor, Matongo, Fash, Manu, Paea, Logan, Ellis, Naulago, Satae.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Today, 7.45pm.