THIS HAS been the best season in Castleford Tigers’ history, but it all comes down to 80 minutes tonight.
Tigers finished 10 points clear at the top of the table and 17 ahead of semi-final visitors St Helens, but they are into sudden-death and boss Daryl Powell reckons they need to be at their absolute best to progress to next week’s Betfred Super League Grand Final.
“We won the league leaders’ quite a few weeks ago and we knew this was coming,” said Powell, who played for Leeds Rhinos in the first Grand Final against Wigan Warriors 19 years ago.
“We knew we were going to be at home, but not who we’d be playing. St Helens beat us the last time we played them at home and we know it is going to be a tough game. It is about being as good as we possibly can be. If we are, we’re confident that’ll be good enough, but we know how difficult Saints are going to be.”
It is two wins each in the teams’ four meetings this year, but Powell believes his men have learned from the most recent clash, a 26-12 victory for Saints at the Jungle in August. He said: “We’ve looked at the way they defended and we need to be a bit smarter on the way we apply our work on the edges.
“We are mindful of that. Personnel-wise, we’ve got some players who’ll be in the team who weren’t for that game and that can change the focus a little bit. We’ve just got to play well, we didn’t play well in that game and they did – that’s life. We have lost five games over 30 so we’ve not been too far away.
“Apart from last week [an under-strength side’s 48-16 defeat by Hull] we’ve been really difficult to beat. Even when we’ve been poor we’ve only just lost games. That steel and desire to come out on top will stand us in good stead.”
Tigers’ credentials in big games have been questioned, but there is only one way to answer that.
“This is a big game for us and we need to play well and deliver,” Powell said. “We have played a lot of big games and come out on top and this is a very, very big game. We have got to prove we are good enough to do it.
“It is up to the players to handle what it stands for and what it gets you if you win it. I think we will be all right, we have got plenty of experience and we’ve just got to turn up on the day and be too good for our opposition.”