Castleford Tigers: We must be at our best to challenge St Helens, warns Daryl Powell

Castleford Tigers' Chris Clarkson is back in contention to play against St Helens on Sunday.
Castleford Tigers' Chris Clarkson is back in contention to play against St Helens on Sunday.

Castleford Tigers’ Magic touch will be put to the ultimate test in three days’ time.

Tigers are third in the Magic Weekend success table, with eight wins and only three defeats.

Jesse Sene-Lefao will miss Sunday's match against St Helens as he is on compassionate leave.

Jesse Sene-Lefao will miss Sunday's match against St Helens as he is on compassionate leave.

Daryl Powell’s first win as Castleford coach was against Wakefield Trinity at the 2013 Magic and he has a 100 per cent record in the event.

They will be underdogs against Betfred Super League leaders St Helens in Sunday evening’s big finale, but after ending their four-match losing run with a win over Leeds Rhinos last week, Powell insisted he and his players are excited to get stuck in.

“They keep throwing the challenges at us at Magic,” Powell said. “They threw Warrington at us one year and we were good enough to beat them, Leeds have been regulars, Wakefield early on and now Saints.

“It is a big challenge for us and we need to play well, absolutely we do – every single player in the team has got to play well.

We have got to front up and match them mentally, then physically, then technically and tactically.

Daryl Powell

“There’s no way around it, they challenge you everywhere.

“They are playing well and they are on form, their individual players are very dangerous and it will be a tough game, but if we play well we are a challenge for teams.”

Powell said Tigers have “had a really good week of preparation on the back of the Leeds game”.

He added: “Winning tends to turn the end of people’s mouths up a little bit, but a lot of this is played out in the heads of players.

“It is a big challenge mentally when you come up against the best team. We have got to front up and match them mentally, then physically, then technically and tactically – the whole shooting match needs to be good.

“It is a tough task, but we are in a good place I think. We’ve had three training sessions, which is unbelievable!

“It doesn’t often happen with the short turnarounds nowadays, but we’ve had a great prep’ and it should be an outstanding game.”

Powell reckons Tigers can trouble Saints, but admitted: “The difficulty is you’ve got to stop them doing what they do and that’s hard. I think we know exactly what they are going to do and when they are going to do it, probably. It’s just stopping it, the quality of what they deliver is very good.”

Forwards Daniel Smith and Chris Clarkson could be back in contention, but Nathan Massey is an injury doubt and Tigers will be without Jesse Sene-Lefao who has returned to Australia on compassionate leave.

“It is a private one from his perspective,” Powell said. “It is a serious illness back home.

“There are several things more important than rugby league and certainly family [is one].

“Being so far away from home is a really tough one so I think it was the right thing to do.

“We wish Jesse all the best and hope things turn out the right way. He caused Leeds a lot of trouble carrying the ball and we will miss that, but it is what it is – there’s not a lot we can do about it.”

Meanwhile, Powell has called for the Magic Weekend to become Super League’s only ‘loop’ fixture – when sides meet for three times in a season – and would like to see it played abroad as a way of promoting the sport.