Castleford boss: We can handle pressure of big semi-final

Daryl Powell.  Picture: Matthew Merrick
Daryl Powell. Picture: Matthew Merrick

Head coach Daryl Powell is confident his Castleford Tigers players will be able to cope with the pressure of playing in tonight’s winner takes all match with St Helens.

The Tigers have already proved themselves to be the most consistent team in the country by topping the Betfred Super League table by 10 points and now they are aiming to make themselves the best with victory in the play-offs.

First they must get past a St Helens side who have been a bogey team down the years and beat Cas at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle at the start of the Super 8s. But for the semi-final they will be roared on by a huge home crowd and the players are determined to give the fans plenty to cheer about.

Cas boss Powell told the Express: “I think everybody’s ready.

“Prep time is pretty short, but we’ve worked so hard all year, we know what we’re about, we know we can deliver and it’s about delivering it under a bit of pressure on the night. I think the boys can handle it.

“It’s going to be a tough game, but the pressure is going to be on both sets of players. Who can deliver the best performance under that pressure is going to be an interesting one. One of the reasons why you play and coach in rugby league is for these big games when you’re really challenged.

“I know all the players are looking forward to it and it should be a special night. We’ve earned the right to be at home by finishing at the top of the table and it will be great to step out in front of our home fans.

“We’ve just got to play well on the night, but there’s a confidence about us that we can.”

Powell believes it was always going to be a tough test for his players whoever finished fourth and St Helens will certainly provide a challenge having beaten the Tigers twice this season.

He said: “Saints are playing really well, they are a good side. Last time they came here they beat us so we have the motivation that we don’t want to let it happen again.

“They’ve got Barba in since then and he offers a bit of a different run threat to Makinson if he’s at full-back.

“Percival is a great player off his left, Roby is an outstanding player who’s had an amazing career and Walmsley is a handful, a big strong ball carrier. Zeb Taia is a handful too in the back row – they are just a good side across the board.

“Our players have got to be better than theirs, it’s as simple as that.

“You look at our players and there’s six of them in the Dream Team. We’ve got good players and they just need to deliver our game and make St Helens worry about us.

“We’ve been focused all year and I don’t see any need to be any different from that. We need to stay relaxed and play our game.

“I didn’t really have a preference of who we play. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and you’ve just got to negate one and weed the other one out then apply pressure to those areas.

“We’ve been good at that all year and we need to be really good hopefully for another couple of games.”