After lifting the League Leaders’ Shield and overcoming St Helens through Luke Gale’s golden point drop-goal in the semi-final, can Castleford complete their perfect season by winning their first Grand Final?
#1 They are favourites for a reason
Castleford have been the most entertaining side in Super League this season and deservedly claimed the League Leaders’ Shield – eventually finishing 10 points ahead of Leeds in second place.
They have the best attack, the best defence, the leading tryscorer, the leading goalkicker, the coach of the year and have on many occasions throughout the season been unstoppable.
Anything can happen in a Grand Final, and as we’ve seen in recent seasons League Leaders’ Shield winners seldom come out on top, but if Cas produce the form they have shown this year and stick to the formula which has brought them all their success so far they should win at Old Trafford.
#2 Luke Gale
In a Grand Final you’re looking for one player to produce those moments of creativity and brilliance to break through the opposition’s defence and Luke Gale definitely provides the x-factor in the halves for Castleford.
Despite having his appendix removed just three weeks ago, Gale has bounced back and was instrumental in the Tigers’ semi-final win over St Helens, slotting over the crucial golden point drop-goal.
The scrum-half has had an outstanding season, capped by winning the Man of Steel award, and could be a hugely significant player for England in the World Cup this autumn.
Saturday will be Gale’s first Grand Final but his character and demeanour suggest he won’t be fazed by the occasion and could be the difference between the sides.
#3 Semi-final lessons will be learnt
After such a comprehensive regular season, in which the Tigers won 25 of their 30 league fixtures, the 23-22 semi-final win over St Helens was the first time they faced real adversity.
Trailing 22-20 with just a minute left on the clock, they had their backs against the wall and the Tigers showed great resilience and character to level the scores and take the game to extra-time.
The game looked lost and the mental and psychological boost it could give to the players will be crucial on Saturday. There will be times when Leeds are on top and have the field territory but the Tigers know they just have to dig deep and they will get their opportunities.
#4 The formbook
Expect Saturday’s final to be a lot closer than the 66-10 drubbing Cas won by back in March but previous encounters this season shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Tigers have won all four meetings between the sides and indicates that Daryl Powell knows the chinks in Leeds’ armour.
They say form goes out of the window in a final but their dominance over the Rhinos this season will give Castleford a psychological boost.
#5 Greg Eden
After topping the Super League tryscoring chart with 38 tries this season, Greg Eden will be looking to complete a great season with a Grand Final win.
After failing to establish himself previously in Super League and a brief spell at Brisbane Broncos, Eden has been one of Castleford’s key figures this season and will be important again on Saturday.
Grand Finals are often low-scoring and cagey affairs, and Eden’s brilliance on the wing and his ability to score from near-impossible situations could be the difference between the two sides.