Salford Red Devils host the Castleford Tigers, with both sides knowing a defeat ends their 2019 campaign.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Salford Red Devils
Salford ended the regular season in third position. They faced Wigan at the DW Stadium in week one knowing the winner would go to St Helens this week and be 80 minutes away from the Grand Final. The game was tight with Salford narrowly beaten 18-12.
The Yorkshire side narrowly scrapped into the playoffs, however this means they would have to win three matches in a row if they want to make it to the Old Trafford showpiece. They faced Challenge Cup holders, Warrington Wolves, in the opening week. The Tigers were strong in defence and it showed as they led six nill at the break. A Peter Mata’utia penalty twelve minutes from time extended their lead to eight, however a minute later Chris Hill reduced the lead to two. The Tigers grinded out the win to make it to this stage.
Salford Red Devils
Ian Watson names an unchanged 19-man squad from last weekend.
Salford Red Devils 19-man squad: Evalds, Welham, Bibby, Mossop, Wood, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, Flanagan, Lussick, Walker, Burke, McCarthy, Tomkins, Sio, Inu, Lannon, Lolohea, Hastings
Daryl Powell makes two changes to his 19-man squad. Both Mike McMeeken and Calum Turner miss out. They are replaced with Nathan Massey and Greg Eden.
Castleford Tigers 19-man squad: Blair, Clare, Clarkson, Cook, Eden, Ellis, Holmes, Maher, Massey, Mata’utia, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, O’Neill, Rankin, Smith, Trueman, Watts
HEAD TO HEAD
The last meeting at the AJ Bell Stadium between these two sides resulted in the home side being victorious. Like most victories for Salford, Jackson Hastings played a pivotal role with a try and two assists. Inside the opening half an hour the Red Devils raced into an 18-6 lead, however two late tries in the halves narrowed the gap to only two points.
Salford who had not beaten Castleford in their previous five meetings were able to keep the Tigers scoreless in the second half. Despite dominating the first half they did not have a huge advantage at the break, however a try from Derrell Olpherts and a penalty from Krisnan Inu secured the two league points.
Jackson Hastings (Salford Red Devils) v Jake Trueman (Castleford Tigers)
Jackson Hastings has been the key for Salford’s success this season and once again if they are to get the victory he will be the reason why. A player with magnificent statistics this year will see him crown as Man of Steel at the end of the season. Another try last weekend only boosted his figures which currently sit at eight tries and 36 try assists. He attacks the line and often acts as a support runner along with Niall Evalds, with frequent line breaks from Josh Jones it is no wonder how they have had so much success.
Jake Trueman produced a wonderful display when scoring a hat-trick against Hull FC. However, the following week he seemed near enough non existent in the defeat to Wigan. Trueman also has eight tries, but only 13 assists. With the injury to Luke Gale he has faced a lot more criticism and pressure on himself. If Trueman is able to unlock the defence with his kicking game, Castleford must not be far away from the next round
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday September 26th
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45 PM
Referee: Ben Thaler
WHO WILL WIN?
Like most playoff matches this will be close, however I think Salford will win the contest. The form of Hastings this season is hard to go against especially as he is playing his final match in front of the AJ Bell crowd as a Salford player.