Rugby League: Castleford hold key

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AFTER Bradford and Wigan beat one another in the space of four days, we have come to the stage of the season when the fates of those who can win the First Division championship hinge on the attitude of those who cannot.

No team's mood will be more significant than that of Castleford. The way they approach their next two matches will go a long way towards deciding the title.

'We've shot ourselves in the foot twice over the last couple of weeks, otherwise we'd be up there,' the Castleford captain, Lee Crooks, said. As it is, Castleford can be high-class spoilers, with a chance to extinguish Warrington's hopes at Wheldon Road this afternoon and deal a body-blow to Wigan on Wednesday.

It would suit Crooks if Cas were to complete that double. 'I think Bradford would be the most deserving champions,' he said. 'And I'd like to see it come to Yorkshire.'

Crooks has the feeling that both Warrington and Wigan are 'owed one' by Castleford, but, if anything, the grudge against Wigan is the stronger. 'It's not that they beat us in the Challenge Cup semi-final, but their coach made some unnecessary remarks about us when he should have been content just to have won. That upset us.' Crooks also believes Castleford can improve their own position to third or even second 'but the important thing is to get our form back in time for the Premiership play-offs'.

With Wigan, Bradford and Warrington all level on points, everything depends on the two matches each have left, although Wigan's better scoring record means they can determine their own destiny. The wise money must be on them to do so.

TODAY'S FIXTURES (3.0 unless stated) Stones Bitter Championship Castleford v Warrington (3.30); Halifax v Wakefield; Hull v Featherstone (3.15); Leigh v Leeds; Salford v Hull KR; Sheffield v Widnes (3.15); St Helens v Oldham. Second Division Barrow v Batley (3.15); Bramley v Huddersfield; Dewsbury v Swinton (3.30); London Crusaders v Whitehaven (3.30); Rochdale v Doncaster; Ryedale-York v Carlisle (3.15); Workington v Keighley.

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