Challenge Cup semi-final preview - Castleford coach Daryl Powell calls on Cup deeds to inspire his Tigers

CASTLEFORD TIGERS are evoking arguably the greatest upset in Challenge Cup history as they prepare to create a significant, if smaller, surprise this weekend.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 4:45 am
Castleford coach Daryl Powell expects the Tigers to pull off a Challenge Cup shock against Warrington Wolves on Saturday. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

The West Yorkshire outfit will go into Saturday’s semi-final against Warrington Wolves, at Leigh, as underdogs, having lost their last three Super League games – including a record 60-6 home defeat by Leeds Rhinos only eight days earlier.

However, Warrington have been the victim of shock results at this stage of the competition several times in recent seasons, particularly against Hull KR in 2015 and Salford Red Devils last year.

And while Castleford’s most recent Wembley appearance was in 2014 and they haven’t lifted the famous trophy since 1986, one member of their backroom staff knows all about overturning the odds in knockout rugby. Tigers physio Matt Crowther played at stand-off for rank outsiders Sheffield Eagles when they beat Wigan Warriors at Wembley in 1998 and has been passing on his experiences to Castleford’s squad in preparation for Saturday’s crunch tie.

Castleford Tigers physio’ Matt Crowther celebrates a try for Sheffield Eagles in their shock Challenge Cup final win over Wigan in 1998. Picture: Tony Harris/PA.

“I asked him [to talk to the players],” revealed Tigers’ coach Daryl Powell

“We have had a few Challenge Cup stories this week from players and staff.

“Matt was the first staff member and he has got a special story there.

“They were pretty much the biggest underdogs ever and those sorts of stories mean something.

Castleford Tigers physio' Matt Crowther. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“They create an emotional bond and it was good to hear what he had to say.”

Powell, himself a former Sheffield player, recalled: “I was in Tunisia with Leeds Rhinos, on a camp there and I couldn’t quite believe it myself, it was huge – a big, big win.”

A Tigers victory this weekend would not create the same shockwaves, Powell admits, but Castleford’s form has taken a sharp dip since they beat Salford, thanks to Gareth O’Brien’s golden point drop goal, in a Cup quarter-final last month.

However, Powell is hopeful of having at least seven players who missed the Leeds defeat back in his line-up to face Warrington and feels the big game will bring the best out of his team.

“There’s no excuses this week,” he pledged.

“This is the biggest game we’ve faced in a while and we need to get our performance right.

“Our attitude needs to be great; our commitment to defend, our accuracy in attack, it all needs to be right where we know it can be.

“It hasn’t been that way for a couple of weeks, but this is a great opportunity to get things right against a team that’s going pretty well.

“We know what we can do as a team, we just need to make sure we are where we need to be this week in every aspect of our performance.”

Powell revealed Tigers did not bother reviewing last Friday’s 11-try defeat and is optimistic they have put that encounter firmly behind them.

He said: “We have had a couple of really good sessions this week and a couple of high-quality meetings that I think have set the scene for us.

“We have a final team run and then it’s about what you do in the 80 minutes on a rugby league field. That’s a brutal place, so you need to get it right.”

He added: “I made a decision before the Leeds game I was going to move straight on to Warrington. I feel, the way we have been this week, that has been vindicated.

“You don’t want to sweep anything under the carpet, but you only have to look at our team and see what we’ve had out there. We’ve been adjusting people constantly and that’s really difficult.

“I feel we will have a strong team out this week and we need to perform well.

“I am confident in everything I have seen from the players. The spirit is great, I have asked every player – regardless of selection – to come in and be focused and buzz this week and the boys have been great in that regard.”