Daryl Powell confident Castleford set for good play-off run

Castleford Tigers Head Coach Daryl Powell
Castleford Tigers Head Coach Daryl Powell

Castleford coach Daryl Powell believes his side are in the best shape possible to make an all-out assault on Old Trafford.

The Tigers, runners-up on their maiden Super League Grand Final appearance in 2017, were languishing outside the top five two months ago when Powell decided to implement a tougher training regime.

The move appears to have paid off, with three wins from their last four matches and five from their last seven, to put Powell's men within touching distance of the play-offs as they prepare to take on Wigan in the last match of the regular season on Thursday.

"We changed our training about 10 weeks ago," Powell said. "We really stepped up how hard we were working and the way we had trained. I think that has really helped and the players recognise that has helped.

"We are more durable now, before we were conceding points way too easily and some of that was because we weren't quite fit enough. So we have worked hard to build up our durability and that has paid dividends."

Last Thursday's 44-12 win over play-off rivals Hull lifted Castleford into fifth place on points difference and they will finish there with victory at the DW Stadium.

Defeat would open the door for Hull, who host St Helens 24 hours later, but Powell is confident his side are finding their form at the right time.

"Our mentality is great at the minute," he said. "You can see that we are in a good place."

Castleford's improved form will under scrutiny from Wigan, who have lost just one of their last 12 matches and can clinch second place with victory on Thursday.

"They look good at the moment," Powell said. "They look fluent and they have got a couple of good young kids coming through and playing in the pack. They are very aggressive and they get under people's skin and our job is to take that away from them."

Powell has been particularly impressed with the form of teenager Morgan Smithies, who had deputised superbly for injured captain Sean O'Loughlin and is rivalling Castleford half-back Jake Trueman for Super League's young player of the year award.

"He's a quality kid," Powell said. "His aggression, his attitude looks fantastic. He is starting every week and that says a lot about him."

Wigan coach Adrian Lam, who hopes to welcome O'Loughlin back from a month out with a torn pectoral muscle, is expecting a difficult game but remains confident his side can clinch the runners-up spot.

"It's in our hands now and I think the players look motivated," he said. "They look hungry, they've trained really well and they're playing for each other. Cas are going pretty good. They are desperate to finish in the five and they need to do that on Thursday night. They are a skilful side who have defended really well in the back end of the season. It was a tough win in torrential rain last time here over them."

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