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Super League Qualifying Play-off preview: St Helens vs Castleford Tigers

Date: Friday 19th September
Venue: Langtree Park
Kick-off: 8:00pm

Teams

St Helens 19 man squad

Tommy Makinson, Jordan Turner, Josh Jones, Adam Swift, Laance Hohaia, Mose Masoe, James Roby, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Sia Soliola, Willie Manu, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Flanagan, Kyle Amor, Paul Wellens, Mark Percival, Gary Wheeler, Matty Dawson, Greg Richards, Luke Thompson

Castleford Tigers 19 man squad

Kirk Dixon, Michael Shenton, Jake Webster, Luke Dorn, Mark Sneyd, Andy Lynch, Adam Milner, Craig Huby, Grant Millington, Weller Hauraki, Nathan Massey, Daryl Clark, Oliver Holmes, Scott Wheeldon, Jamie Ellis, Michael Channing, James Clare, Liam Finn, Lee Jewitt

Form

St Helens

Round 27 – Huddersfield Giants (A), L 17-16
Round 26 – Warrington Wolves (H), L 12-39
Round 25 – Leeds Rhinos (A), W 12-13
Round 24 – Wakefield Wildcats (H), W 40-16
Round 23 – Hull FC (A), L 19-12

Castleford Tigers

Round 27 – Catalan Dragons (A), L 28-6
Round 26 – Wakefield Wildcats (H), W 26-22
Round 25 – Bradford Bulls (H), W 32-18
Round 24 – Warrington Wolves (A), L 48-10
Round 23 – London Broncos (H), W 64-18

Preview

On Saturday Castleford Tigers had the chance to snatch the League Leaders Shield from under the noses of St Helens in Perpignan, needing a win to finish top for the first time in their Super League history.

They couldn’t take that chance though and Saints were eventually crowned League Leaders and as fate would have it the Tigers’ defeat in France meant they would finish fourth and face St Helens in the play-offs.

Both teams will be playing for a week off as the winners will progress to the semi-finals and the loser will face a knockout game for a place in the semi-finals themselves.

Saints and Castleford have been two of the best teams in the league throughout the season and will provide a brilliant spectacle on Friday night when they go head to head in their Qualifying Play-off.

St Helens will need to recover from their late season blip as they threw away two chances to win the League Leaders Shield and put it in Castleford’s hands however they both go into the game off the back of defeats.

Saints were denied by a late Leroy Cudjoe drop goal away to Huddersfield as the Giants won one of the games of the season 17-16.

Castleford travelled to Perpignan and Catalans showed them how tough a trip it can be to France with a comfortable 28-6 victory.

The Tigers have been the dark horses of Super League and before the start of the season were destined for a relegation battle however they have had an incredible year which saw them get to the Challenge Cup Final and top it off with a top four finish.

Saints secured their first League Leaders Shield since 2008 despite missing key players Jonny Lomax, Luke Walsh and Jon Wilkin and those injuries could affect their Grand Final hopes.

Key Battles

Lance Hohaia vs Marc Sneyd

Lance has the weight of the team on his shoulders as he is one of very few fit halfbacks left in the St Helens team with Jonny Lomax and Luke Walsh out injured. He will be key to the organisation of the side and if his forwards give him a platform to work with he could be very dangerous with the ball. Sneyd has been a surprise package this year and is an exciting young talent who has the ability to change a game at any given time. Saints will put pressure on him from the off but if they let off for a second they could regret it.

James Roby vs Daryl Clark

Arguably the best hookers in Super League who could be going head to head for a place in England’s four nations squad. James Roby has a wealth of experience and is one of the smartest hookers in the game, his reading of the game and ability to change the tempo when its needed is something that can win games. Daryl is off to Warrington next year but will want to end his time with Castleford by helping them to Old Trafford and he could do just that if he performs on the day. He is a danger from everywhere on the field and any laziness in defence will be exposed by him.

Kyle Amor vs Craig Huby

Here we have two big forwards who will be battling for supremacy in the middle of the field, both who have had incredible seasons. Kyle’s rise from the Championship to the Super League is testament to the talent we have in our country and he is now regarded as one of the league’s best prop forwards. Huby is a big unit who will give his backs a platform to work with and his dedication to helping his side was seen when he played at Wembley just weeks after a nasty elbow injury. This battle will be one worth watching.

Previous Meetings This Season

St Helens are unbeaten against Castleford in the Super League having beaten them at Langtree Park 38-16 and earlier in the season edged a tight encounter away in Castleford 28-30. Saints will have to do it without big names such as Lomax and Walsh this time out though.

Prediction

Saints have the play-offs experience and that could be the difference here. Castleford have a chance with Saints missing some big players but I’m going for a 6 point win for the home side.

My name is Sean Hayes. I am from Widnes, England. I am currently studying journalism at Salford University. Aspiring sports journalist and rugby league fanatic whether it is watching, playing or writing about the greatest game! Follow me on twitter @SHayesNBL



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