Daryl Powell, the Castleford head coach, has set his sights on stealing the League Leaders’ Shield from St Helens’ grasp after watching his side move to within four points of the leaders with a 32-18 win over Bradford yesterday.
Powell’s team were not at their free-flowing best, understandably so given their Challenge Cup final defeat the previous weekend, but they got the job done to remain in the hunt to finish top of the Super League.
Castleford gave themselves a fighting chance thanks to tries from Andy Lynch, James Clare, Luke Dorn, Michael Shenton and Daryl Clark, whose superb solo effort eased the home side’s nerves after a Lee Gaskell hat-trick had brought Bradford to within six points of the Tigers.
Powell was pleased with the character shown by his side and quickly turned his attention to chasing down Saints. He said: “It was always going to be tough to back up after a Challenge Cup final, especially after a loss, and it took some responding to.
“It was paramount that we won the game and we did that. It was pretty hot out there and probably the mental exertions as well as the physical ones took some dealing with.
“We’ve been quite critical and there was no point pussy- footing around. The courage and character of the players was superb. We’ve been to a final and have got an opportunity in front of us now.”
The Wakefield coach, James Webster, is desperately hoping a permanent deal for Tim Smith can be tied up after the scrum-half helped destroy his parent club Salford to keep alive the Wildcats’ slender Super League play-off hopes.
The 29-year-old Australian, who joined Wakefield in June, was allowed to line up against Salford and repaid their generosity with a hand in five of his side’s eight tries to condemn the Red Devils to a 42-6 defeat and finally end their top-eight quest.
“Tim was outstanding,” Webster said. “He is the heart and soul of our side and, when he’s the main man, he just creates so much space and time in our team. It’s no coincidence that we’ve improved a lot since Tim came.
“Salford haven’t said ‘no’. I know Tim would like to stay. He’s got nothing against Salford but he enjoys playing here. It’s getting to the stage where it needs to get done.”
The Wildcats overcame the loss of captain Danny Kirmond with a knee injury, which is likely to rule him out for the rest of the season, to dominate the game.
The defeat meant disappointment for Salford chairman Marwan Koukash, who had demanded a top-six finish this year, and coach Iestyn Harris branded his side’s performance as “not acceptable”. “It was a big game for us, a big game for the club,” he added. “The game is about attitude and desire and we didn’t have that. But we’ll get to bottom of that.”