Date: Thursday 25th September
Venue: Mend-A-Hose Jungle
Castleford: Dixon, Shenton, Carney, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Wheeldon, Ellis, Channing, Clare, Finn, Jewitt
Warrington: Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, Currie, England, B.Evans, R.Evans, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J.Monaghan, M.Monaghan, Myler, O’Brien, Ormsby, Ratchford, Waterhouse, Wood
SLQualPlayoff – St Helens (A), L 41-0
Rnd 27 – Catalans (A), L 28-6
Rnd 26 – Wakefield (H), W 26-22
Rnd 25 – Bradford (H), W 32-18
CC Final – Leeds (N), L 10-23
SLElimPlayoff – Widnes (H), W 22-19
Rnd 27 – Wigan (A), L 24-20
Rnd 26 – St Helens (A), W 12-39
Rnd 25 – Huddersfield (H), D 24-24
Rnd 24 – Castleford (H), W 48-10
Castleford Tigers host the Warrington Wolves in the first play-off preliminary semi-final this Thursday.
A win for either side will put them just 80 minutes away from the Grand Final at Old Trafford, whereas the losing team’s 2014 Super League journey will be over.
Castleford will be looking to vastly improve on their performance from last Friday’s 41-0 thrashing away to league leaders St Helens as Daryl Powell’s men look to take advantage of the 2nd chance they’ve been given in order to progress to the semi finals.
Warrington also struggled in their opening play-off tie as a Joel Monaghan hat-trick helped the Wolves fight back from 18-0 down to claim an unconvincing 22-19 victory over local rivals Widnes. Warrington have made the semi-finals of the play-offs in the past 3 seasons, and Tony Smith’s side are looking to become the 3rd team to win the Grand Final from 5th place in the table.
The head injury suffered by Matty Russell in the win over the Vikings is not as bad as first feared, but the full back misses out for the Wolves. Stefan Ratchford is expected to take his position, and Paul Wood returns to the squad after his suspension.
Jake Webster is unavailable for the Tigers, with Michael Channing expected to deputise in the centres. Lee Jewitt is recalled to the squad, but it’s the return of Marc Sneyd in the halves which will delight Castleford fans the most, as the Tigers chase their first play-off semi-final since 1999.
Michael Shenton v Chris Bridge
Two players who have had a huge influence on their side’s successes this season. Chris Bridge has been a revelation for Warrington this campaign, and even though he’s moved back into the centres in recent weeks, he was key to turning round the game for the Wolves last Saturday in a man of the match performance. Michael Shenton has led by example for Castleford this season, and his leadership, creativity and 17 tries have been a huge factor in the club finishing 4th.
Craig Huby v Chris Hill
If the game is won in the forwards, this will be the battle which decides it. Two big prop forwards who are vital to their team gaining field position and momentum up the pitch. Chris Hill was named in the Super League dream team for this season and Craig Huby, who has had a new lease of life this season, was unlucky not to join him. Who will come out on top on Thursday?
Daryl Clark v Michael Monaghan
Despite being on different sides, it’s the master vs the apprentice with this battle, as Daryl Clark will join the Wolves next season to replace the retiring Michael Monaghan. That won’t phase Clark however, who has been one of the stars of the season, starting some devastating plays from dummy half which is expected to see him earn an England call up this Autumn. Michael Monaghan turned the game around for Warrington in their comeback win over Widnes, and whenever he is at his best the Wolves tend to win.
Previous Meetings This Season
The sides have met twice this season, and share the spoils at one win apiece. Warrington won 48-10 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in August, but Castleford won at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle with a resounding 40-6 victory on Easter Monday, and they will be hoping that home advantage can help produce a similar result on Thursday.
Cas will show improvement from last week, but Warrington look best suited to progress. The Wolves by 12.