Castleford win keeps first-ever Shield dream alive
Castleford`s win over Wakefield on Sunday ensured that the race for the Super League Leaders` Shield will go down to the final weekend and Tigers coach Daryl Powell admits he cannot quite believe it.
London: Castleford`s win over Wakefield on Sunday ensured that the race for the Super League Leaders` Shield will go down to the final weekend and Tigers coach Daryl Powell admits he cannot quite believe it.
The Tigers lost in the Challenge Cup final last month to local rivals Leeds but their league form has not taken a hit, and with table-toppers St Helens losing on Thursday, the Tigers came into Sunday`s clash knowing a win would keep them in the hunt for a first-ever Shield.
They had to do it the hard way however, letting a 22-0 lead slip before holding on late on to see off the Wildcats 26-22.
On the final round of the regular season Castleford head to France to take on Catalan knowing that only a victory, and a defeat for Saints, will be enough to give them the title.
But Powell admits just to be in contention for top spot in the table is a victory for his side.
"Obviously going away to Catalan is a tough game," said Powell who played for Balmain and Gold Coast between 1988-91.
"Pretty much everybody has struggled over there, so it`s going to take a big effort from us to win that game.
"But to have that opportunity is a special thing for us. Nobody would have thought we would go down to the last game of the season with a chance of winning the League Leaders` Shield.
"We`re obviously delighted we`ve got the two points - that was the most important thing - but, from a performance point of view, we were miles off in the second half.
"I thought for half-an-hour we looked like a team in play-off mode, then for 50 minutes we were absolutely terrible.
"We did well to win the game. I thought we`d get beaten actually. They were playing hot. But you have to commend the character of our team."
For Saints, they were put to the sword by Warrington on Thursday in a 39-12 defeat at home that denied them a chance to celebrate a first Leaders` Shield since 2008.
Joel Monaghan crossed twice for the in-form Wolves and Saints must now head to Huddersfield and claim at least a draw to be guaranteed the silverware.
"It was not the performance we were looking for. We struggled in a few areas and their dummy-half runners caused us quite a lot of trouble," said head coach Nathan Brown.
"I can`t be too critical of the guys because at the end of the day, they put the club in a good spot under a reasonable amount of adversity.
"Unfortunately we saved the off night for what could have been a great occasion for our fans but I`ve still got a lot of faith in the guys that we can recover from this.
"We generally recover from these losses well."
Meanwhile, Widnes Vikings secured their first play-off berth in the club`s history with a 32-12 win over Bradford Bulls, Stefan Marsh running in a hat-trick.
And head coach Denis Betts could not hide his delight after their record-breaking effort.
"It`s a fantastic achievement for the team to be certain of being in the top eight and in charge of our own destiny," he said.