LAST WEEKEND’S shock result at Wembley has left half-back Jamie Ellis convinced Castleford Tigers can win this year’s Grand Final.
With three rounds of the regular season remaining, Tigers are still battling to secure a place in the Betfred Super League play-offs.
They travel to St Helens tomorrow just six days after the league leaders were stunned 18-4 by Warrington Wolves in the Coral Challenge Cup final – and Ellis reckons that proved the title race is wide open.
He said: “It is going to be tough, but anything can happen and you never know, we could sneak into a Grand Final.
“Warrington winning shows anything can happen on the day; we just have to turn up and play well.
“Saints have been the benchmark this year, the whole squad has done really well for them but, from second to sixth, there’s nothing in it.
“You never know what can happen – we could get into that final and win it.”
Tigers have not won at Saints during the summer era and Ellis knows tomorrow’s hosts will be anxious to prove last Saturday was a one-off.
“It is going to be a tough game for us,” he predicted.
“St Helens are the league leaders and they are going to be fighting and wanting a bit of a reaction, but we are looking forward to it.”
Though Saints will be without Lachlan Coote and Dom Peyroux from their Wembley 17, coach Justin Holbrook has decided against major changes to his squad.
“That is going to be better for us, playing their best team and really going for it,” Ellis insisted. “Going into the play-offs that is going to be beneficial for us.”
Tigers’ final two games are home to third-placed Hull and away against Wigan Warriors, who are fourth.
It is a tough run-in but, if they quality, they will be battle-hardened for the semi-finals.
“It is like play-off rugby for us now,” Ellis said. “These are the games you want to be playing in.
“In our last two games we haven’t conceded a try so defence is the main thing we are doing well. We could maybe have put a few more points on Huddersfield [who Tigers beat 24-0] and been a bit more clinical, but we have been working on that this week in training.
“You have to be clinical, especially against St Helens and take your chances.”
Tomorrow will be the third game of Ellis’ comeback from a pre-season knee injury.
He said: “Obviously it has been tough.
“I’ve felt a bit rusty and off the pace, but I have got two games under my belt now and hopefully I can kick on and have a good end to the season.”
Not having a game last weekend wasn’t ideal for Ellis.
He admitted: “I wanted to keep going and get some consistency, but I think it is going to be beneficial for our lads who’ve been playing every week.
“Some of them have had a rest which is going to be good for them.”
Liam Watts is set to return from injury for Tigers and Calum Turner is also in contention. Matty Costello and Jack Welsby have been drafted into Saints’ squad.
St Helens: from Lomax, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Fages, Richardson, Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Paulo, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles, Amor, Ashworth, Bentley, Costello, Welsby.
Castleford Tigers: from Blair, Clare, Ellis, Holmes, Maher, Massey, Mata’utia, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, O’Neill, Rankin, Sene-Lefao, Smith, Trueman, Turner, Watts.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 7.45pm.