Oliver Holmes: Castleford Tigers in 'best possible place' to pull off Challenge Cup final win over St Helens

Castleford Tigers' recent lack of game time will work in their favour at Wembley, forward Oliver Holmes reckons.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 4:47 pm

Holmes has not played since a home loss to Catalans Dragons in Super League on June 24.

Tigers’ next two matches were cancelled and coach Daryl Powell fielded a second-string team against Salford Red Devils last Sunday.

Players returning from injury in Saturday’s Betfred Challenge Cup final against St Helens have been sidelined even longer, but Holmes reckons the lengthy break is a bonus.

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Oliver Holmes gets past Danny McGuire and Zak Hardaker to score for Tigers against Leeds at Wembley in 2014. Picture by Steve Riding.

“If you look at how hectic the fixture schedule has been recently, lads were creaking,” the 28-year-old second-rower said.

“It’s not easy backing up on five- or six-day turnarounds constantly, you can’t train and you are constantly in recovery.

“Having the time off, not that we wanted it, has given us a chance to freshen people up and get some quality training into us. I think it gives us an advantage going into this game, 100 per cent.”

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Oliver Holmes applauds Tigers' fans following the semi-final win over Warrington. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Holmes insisted: “I definitely feel we are prepared. We’ve had a good look at Saints and we’ve got plans in place that you don’t usually have this amount of time to work on.

“I think we are in the best place possible to go on and win this game.”

Holmes, who made his debut 11 years ago, is in his final season at Castleford before joining Warrington Wolves in 2022.

Along with fellow forward Nathan Massey and captain Michael Shenton, he is one of only three Tigers survivors from their previous Wembley appearance, in 2014.

Holmes was among Castleford’s try scorers in a 23-10 loss to Leeds Rhinos that afternoon and reckons lessons have been learned.

He said: “I’ve been down there and experienced a loss, we got a few things wrong the last time and that won’t happen again.

“The preparation will be a lot better and it gives us every chance to go out and win this.

“Being a senior player now and having been there, I can speak to people about it and better prepare lads in the squad who haven’t been there and done it.”

Holmes admitted he can’t remember much of the game seven years ago and is determined to enjoy the occasion this time.

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“When I look back, I think we tried as a group to try and stay as normal as possible in terms of the game week and not try and make it feel too different,” he recalled.

“I don’t think that was the right way to go about it, I think this time around we are really going to drink in the atmosphere, the build-up, everything that comes with a final at Wembley.

“I’ve spent all my adult life at Cas and to not have a major trophy behind me and the club during these 12 years is something I want to rectify for myself and the club and Powelly and anyone else who’ll be leaving this year.

“It does make it that bit more special. It probably puts a bit more pressure on, but pressure brings out the best in people.”

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