TOMORROW'S CRUNCH Super League clash with Hull FC is win or bust for Castleford Tigers, admits head coach Daryl Powell.
Victory for the Black and Whites would put them four points clear of the Tigers and would leave Castleford needing big favours from elsewhere to replace either Warrington Wolves or Salford Red Devils in the top five.
A win over Hull tomorrow would be enough to send Castleford back into the play-off spots on points difference.
Both sides face difficult tests in their final outings, with Powell’s charges travelling to Wigan and Lee Radford’s side hosting St Helens - who have only lost three league games all season.
“If we win it, we go above them on points difference and if we lose - that’s it,” Powell said.
“That’s what it’s all about - if you are ever going to win anything you have got to win these knockout games.
“This is like a knockout game. There’s still a game after it, but we have to get this right.”
Hull have endured inconsistent form in 2019 and are one of only four teams to have conceded over 700 points.
They were beaten by relegation-threatened Huddersfield Giants last week but Powell isn’t reading too much into recent results.
He said: “They have had some big scores against them over the season, which is a bit strange because they can clearly beat the better sides and they’ve got the players to be an outstanding rugby league team.
“They have won one of the last five, but that doesn’t matter too much. It is almost like a one-off game this one.
“It is important for both teams. If they hit their best form they are really difficult to handle, if they are on their worst form they’ve been conceding a few points.
“We just have to concentrate on ourselves and make sure we are where we need to be.”
There has been drama at both ends of the Super League table this season and with more to come in the final two games, Powell feels this year’s structure change has provided fantastic entertainment.
He added: “People talked about the jeopardy at the bottom and it wasn’t great for the teams with the bottom-four, but if anything it has been even tighter.
“I think at both ends of the table it has been great.
“Clearly St Helens have been the best team, but it doesn’t count for much.
“We were the same in 2017, but it didn’t end up with us winning the Grand Final.
“As you saw with St Helens in the big game a couple of weeks ago, there’s nothing given because you’ve won games consistently.
“That’s the beauty of sport. It has been an interesting competition and I think it will stay interesting right until the end.”
Jake Trueman - along with Liam Watts - was named in the Great Britain performance squad this week.
The young half-back has been one of the ever-present features of an injury-hit back-line, with Luke Gale and Jamie Ellis spending most of the year on the sidelines.
“Cory Aston has played a bit at half for us, obviously we were missing our third-choice half-back, Jamie Ellis, for most of the year,” added Powell
“We’ve been missing Michael Shenton, our captain, since Easter. Junior Moors has been missing pretty much all season.
“It has been a tough one, particularly with people who are real catalysts in your squad - Luke Gale as an example.
“He is pretty smart at dropping goals and we’ve lost two games by a point. I’m pretty sure he would have nailed them, if not both at least one of them.
“But it is what it is, there’s not a lot you can do about it.
“It was a bit of a blow, but we’ve managed our way through and learned a lot of lessons, manipulated the squad.
“Jake Trueman’s done an incredible job, he has played with different partners and as a lone half when we’ve played with two full-backs at times.
“We’ve manipulated our team around and that in itself has been frustrating because we haven’t been able to build up the combinations we’d have wanted, but whatever we’ve asked the boys to do they’ve just cracked on and got on with it.”