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Castleford Tigers v St Helens
The Castleford Tigers welcome St Helens to the Jungle in this first playoff semi-final, where the winner will march on to Old Trafford and the loser will see their season ended.
The Tigers will be hoping to use their incredible home form from the past season into good use but after losing 2 games in the Super 8’s one with a reserve team out), how cruel will it be for them to lose their one and only playoff game.
The Tigers have dominated the whole Super League season and they also dominated the Super League Dream Team during the week but if they come up short in this one, it will have all been in vein.
Saints have found a way to grind out results in recent week and whilst not at the best in any of those games, they have shown 100% commitment. The Saints best performance of the season arguably came the last time the 2 met when Saints pulled off a huge shock by winning at the Jungle, could history repeat itself?
Nobody have managed to find an answer to the style of the Tigers and nobody have managed to match them yet so if the Tigers play anywhere near their best, they will be the odds on favourite but if they are just a couple percentages off of that, Saints will have the belief to go to Castleford and come away with the win.
That sets this up to be a fascinating match up and one that you can watch live online via Sports Stream Rugby League.
Castleford have won 8 of their last 10 matches, which incredibly is a dip in form for the Tiger’s but they did wrap up the League Leaders Shield and a Play Off place with ease. That has led to them resting players and allowing those with knocks to rest.
At home they have only lost twice since July last year.
Saints ended the Super 8’s in good form with 3 straight victories. On the road they have won 4 of their last 5 including that match against Cas in August.
Castleford have named Luke Gale in their squad as the England international hopes to make an incredible return from appendicitis but it will go down to the last minute.
After resting much of their team for the loss against Hull FC last time out, Zak Hardaker, Nathan Massey, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Junior Moors and captain Michael Shenton all return for this one.
St Helens remain unchanged for this play-off semi-final.
Matches at this stage of the season are all about handling the pressure of the situation and managing your nerves. Castleford have played the whole season with a refreshing amount of freedom and it will be fascinating to see if they can continue that in this all or nothing match up against Saints.
St Helens have replied on hard work and a never give up attitude to make it through to this stage of the season but in a semi-final and up against the top scorers in the league, they will need to show more creativity. In many ways, they will rely on ben Barba to give them that edge and whilst the former NRL player of the year has started to show some of the form he is capable of, his performance levels and fitness are still well below his best.
He has also struggled with the extra kicks he is dealing with in defence due to the different style of the Super League and one of the key components of the kicking game are the Castleford Tigers. Barba’s ability or inability to deal with that could be were the game is one or lost.
If Luke Gale can play and can play to anywhere near the level he has shown this season it is difficult to see how Saints can score enough points to come out on top against Cas. The Tigers simply have threats all across the park and can score from near the line, from their own half, with the ball in hand or on the back of a turnover. Basically, no matter the situation, the Tigers have scored form it.
Saints rely more on their big forwards to barge over the line from inside the oppositions defensive 10 metre mark but at this stage you need more than that.
Our Prediction: Castleford Tigers by 10
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