Castleford Tigers ready to banish memories of heartbreak from 2017 Grand Final defeat, says Oliver Holmes

Oliver Holmes. PIC: Allan McKenzie\
Oliver Holmes. PIC: Allan McKenzie\

ALMOST TWO years on from their disheartening Grand Final defeat against Leeds Rhinos in 2017, a sour taste still remains at Castleford Tigers.

The Wheldon Road club lost just five games in the 30-game league season, finishing 10 points ahead of second-placed Leeds.

Daryl Powell’s men won their play-off semi-final in golden-point after Luke Gale’s drop-goal handed them the most dramatic of wins over St Helens.

But in the showpiece at Old Trafford, it was heartbreak for the Tigers as they were beaten 24-6 by the Rhinos.

However, Castleford-born forward Oliver Holmes now believes the club have a great chance to right the wrongs from two years ago.

The Tigers must first negotiate a Salford Red Devils-shaped roadblock on their road to glory, or risk having the curtain drawn on their season.

“It would be unbelievable,” said Holmes of winning Super League’s biggest prize with his hometown club.

“Cas have never won a Grand Final.

“We got there in 2017 and there is a little bit of a bitter taste still there from that loss to Leeds.

“There is a lot of people still here from that team and we are looking to get back there and put things right. It would mean everything to the club, the fans and myself. It would be massive.”

Only four teams have lifted the Super League trophy in the competition’s 23-year history. Leeds have won a record eight Super League titles while St Helens have triumphed six times.

Wigan Warriors are five-times champions while Championship club Bradford Bulls have lifted the trophy four times.

And Holmes feels it is about time a new name was etched on the trophy, adding: “It would be massive for the game in general, not just for the club. It would be massive for the league.

“There are only four teams on there. So, it would be nice to scratch another name on the bottom end of it.”

The venue for tonight’s semi-final, the AJ Bell Stadium, is only a stone’s throw from Old Trafford although the Grand Final has always felt much further away for Salford.

It has been a different story this season, however, with Ian Watson’s charges securing a third-place finish in 2019.

“A lot of the pundits predicted them to be bottom end of the table,” added Holmes.

“And that is a credit to Ian Watson and all the players over there that they have got themselves in the position that they did to finish third and get a second crack of the whip.

“It just shows how good a team they are this year.”

Holmes is set to make his 200th career appearance in tomorrow night's semi-final.

The 27-year-old has played 196 times for Castleford, along with one appearance for England two for the England Knights.

He spent some time on the sidelines in the middle part of the campaign and is pleased to have had an injury-free run in the side.

He added: "I have played the last 10 games or so now and I feel like I am playing pretty well.

"I am just glad to be back out there with the boys. We have had a tough year through injury and being sat on the sidelines is tough when the team has been struggling.

"But now we are playing good rugby, working hard for each other and defending well and ultimately that is what wins you games."