Raper's job almost done

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The Independent Online
Castleford, already looking safer than at any time this season, can end all mathematical conjecture about relegation today if they win at Warrington.

It would already require an unlikely series of results to send Castleford down, which means that Stuart Raper has done the job that he was brought in to do.

Cas were looking worryingly adrift when he took over from John Joyner in mid-season, but the tighter defence and more workmanlike approach that he has introduced are now almost certain to see them clear of trouble.

Even if Castleford lose at Wilderspool today, they will only slip into the First Division if Oldham beat Paris tomorrow and those two clubs win their final games, against Warrington and St Helens respectively, next weekend.

Despite that, the former Cronulla reserve grade coach is urging his players to take nothing for granted today. They are still without David Chapman and will have Nathan Sykes in for the injured Dean Sampson, but will otherwise be at full strength.

At the other end of the table, Bradford continue their quest to become the first team to go through a whole season in the top division unbeaten. In normal circumstances, Wigan would present a mighty obstacle to that sort of vaulting ambition but injuries that have deprived them of the services of the likes of Tony Smith and Nigel Wright have weakened them crucially on the field.

On top of that, the upheavals of a week that has seen the resignation of their chairman and vice-chairman and the launch of a police investigation into death threats against them have hardly helped them to concentrate on the job in hand.

It would now be a major surprise if they were the ones to spoil the Bulls' record, which could be under greater threat at London on Sunday.

The Broncos can guarantee themselves runners-up spot in Super League and, in theory, a home run to the Premiership final by beating Halifax - something which should be well within their capabilities.

That leaves just the question of third and fourth places to be resolved. If St Helens beat Leeds by 28 points or more at Knowsley Road, they will climb above them, but, in one order or the other, the two sides should keep Wigan out of the top four and deny them a bye in the first round of the play-offs.

The League has begun the search for a new sponsor for Super League following Stones' decision to pull out with a year of their three-year deal still to run.

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