The two teams known for their expansive and exciting play will bring down the curtain on this year’s edition of the Magic Weekend on Sunday evening.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Somehow Saints have still only lost one game so far in all competitions. Their form has been scratchy of late as they overcame a stubborn Huddersfield in the cup a fortnight ago and then somehow managed to get a victory against Salford thanks to a controversial James Bentley try in the dying minutes. Not to disrespect Salford but this weekend they come up against a better side who would not let a 14 point slip.
Castleford gained a well-needed victory last week against close rivals Leeds Rhinos after they had lost four on the bounce in all competitions. Darryl Powell’ teams season has been hampered with injury all season meaning their has been no consistency to the side. They are currently sitting in the final play-off spot in fifth position.
This game comes a little too soon for the likes of Mark Percival, Luke Thompson and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook as they continue their recovery. James Roby and Kevin Naiqama however do make a welcome return. Saints definitely missed the pair last week, especially the distribution from dummy half from Roby. Match winner James Bentley retains his spot in the side.
St Helens 19-man squad: 1. Jonny Lomax 2. Tommy Makinson 3. Kevin Naiqama 5. Regan Grace 6. Theo Fages, 8. Alex Walmsley 9. James Roby 11. Zeb Taia 12. Joseph Paulo 15. Morgan Knowles 16. Kyle Amor 17. Dom Peyroux 18. Adam Swift 19. Matty Lees 20. Jack Ashworth 21. Aaron Smith 22. James Bentley 23. Lachlan Coote 24. Matty Costello.
Castleford have made three changed to the side. Jesse Sene-Lafao was granted to leave to return to Australia on compassionate grounds this week while Nathan Massey misses out through injury. Youngster Brad Jinks also misses out while Will Maher, Chris Clarkson and Daniel Smith all return to strengthen the pack.
Castleford Tigers 19-man squad: 1. Peter Mata’utia 2. James Clare 3. Greg Minikin 5. Greg Eden 6. Jake Trueman 8. Liam Watts 9. Paul McShane 10. Grant Millington 12. Mike McMeeken 13. Adam Milner 18. Matt Cook 21. Mitch Clark 23. Will Maher 24. Cory Aston 25. Tuoyo Egodo 32. Jordan Rankin 33. Chris Clarkson 34. Daniel Smith 35. Cheyse Blair
HEAD TO HEAD
Since breaking Saints’ hearts in the 2017 play-off semi-final through a Luke Gale drop goal, Castleford had a miserable run against St Helens being beaten five times. Not only have they been beaten but they have been embarrassed on the pitch. The aggregate score between the sides in their last five meetings is 190-54. Grim reading if you are Cas fan.
In terms of Magic Weekend, Cas have won eight out of their 11 Magic fixtures while Saints have won six and drew one, losing five.
Alex Walmsley (St Helens) v Liam Watts (Castleford Tigers)
Walmsley and Watts are the two in form props in Super League at the moment. They could also be fighting it out for a place on the GB Lions tour come the end of the year with the British side having a plethora of talent in the forwards.
Credit has to go to Walmsley for the way he has come back from a serious back injury. Despite Saints’ shaky form at the moment, Walmsley has stepped it up a notch since the loss of Luke Thompson. So far ‘big Al’ has made 1617 metres and more impressively 55 tackle busts.
On the opposing side, Watts has carried this Castleford team at times this season. He has made a whopping 300 metres more than Walmsley. Not only can he cart the ball up but he has the hands of a half back. His offloading game can make even more valuable metres for the Tigers.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Referee: Robert Hicks
WHO WILL WIN?
Despite their recent performances I think Saints will still gain victory. They have the mental edge over Cas with recent victories.