CASTLEFORD TIGERS will finish as First Utility Super League leaders if they beat Catalan Dragons in Perpignan this evening.
St Helens’ 17-16 defeat at Huddersfield Giants last night means coach Daryl Powell’s side would claim top spot on points difference with a victory at Stade Gilbert Brutus.
Going into their final match of the weekly rounds Tigers are already guaranteed a place in the top-four for the first time and Powell said: “It’s a great opportunity for us if we win the game.
“It would be an immense achievement for us. For the club and this team to be able to say they finished top would be great.
“It’s going to be a tough ask as Catalan are good at home. They’re such a big physical group of players.
“Look at their outside backs, they’ve effectively got back-rowers playing in the centres in Pomeroy and Duport and their back-rowers are excellent.
“They’re a threat everywhere and I really like how Ian Henderson plays.
“It’s also a different environment to play in and the crowd get a bit excited at times, but if we were able to do it, it would be an unbelievable achievement.
“The whole thing should be put into perspective. The very fact we’re in this position now is testimony to all the hard work that’s gone on.
“To have the opportunity to finish top ahead of the last round of the season, someone said to me, ‘You could’ve asked 1,000 people at the start of the season and they’d have said not a chance.’
“So we’ve done an outstanding job. That’s not to say we don’t want to take the next steps, but losing one game will not define our season.”
Powell admitted even he didn’t expect round 27 to begin with Tigers just two points behind the leaders and boasting a better for and against.
“I would’ve said I don’t think we’ll finish top, but I think we’ll have a really good season,” he said of what his prediction would have been at the start of the year.
“We were confident. We looked at the players and we were confident in our ability to create an environment for them to thrive.
“That has been the case and a lot of players have improved and played really well.
“I thought we’d be in the top eight, but where in that, I’d not really considered it.”
Grant Millington could make his comeback today after suffering a knee injury in the draw at Hull in July.
Craig Huby has not played since the Challenge Cup final three weeks ago, due to the elbow dislocation he suffered in the semi-final 13 days earlier, but has also been named in Tigers’ initial 19-man squad.
Jamie Ellis and Michael Channing are also in contention, but Frankie Mariano and Garreth Carvell miss out after being hurt in last Sunday’s tense win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Catalan are without Gregory Mounis and Lopini Paea from the team which won at Hull KR last weekend, but Jeff Lima, Antoni Maria, Damien Cardace and Jason Baitieri are all in line for a recall.
Catalan Dragons from: Escare, Oldfield, Pomeroy, Duport, Millard, Bosc, Williams, Elima, Henderson, Anderson, Taia, Whitehead, Baitieri, Pelissier, Bousquet, Garcia, Maria, Lima, Cardace.
Castleford Tigers from: Dorn, Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Clare, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Jewitt, Holmes, Hauraki, Massey, Milner, Wheeldon, Huby, Millington, Ellis, Channing.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Today, 5pm.