Castleford Tigers vs Leeds Rhinos Grand Final Preview
5th Oct 2017 by TSZ
- Castleford needed a Luke Gale drop goal in golden point extra time to defeat St Helens in a thrilling semi-final contest to book their place in their first Super League Grand Final.
- That victory was Castleford's 18th win from their last 20 Super League fixtures, highlighting their superb consistency throughout the season. That run has included three wins against Leeds, a team the Tigers have defeated in their last eight meetings in the league.
- The big team news in the run-up to Saturday is the fact that Zak Hardaker is unavailable for selection due to "a breach of club rules", with Jy Hitchcox the man to replace him in the squad.
Head Coach: Daryl Powell
Expected squad: Matt Cook, Greg Eden, Alex Foster, Luke Gale, Jy Hitchcox, Oliver Holmes, Andy Lynch, Nathan Massey, Mike McMeeken, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Greg Minikin, Junior Moors, Ben Roberts, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer, Jake Webster
Unavailable: Zak Hardaker
- Leeds edged a tight affair at home to Hull as they progressed to their tenth Grand Final. Having lost just two of those previous nine Grand Finals, the Rhinos are the most successful side in the Super League era.
- Leeds have won in their last six Grand Final appearances which has mainly been thanks to their resolute defence on the big stage. The Rhinos have conceded an average of just 14.3 points per game in those six games.
- The influential Stevie Ward has passed a fitness test after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the semi-final win last week, and should start.
Head Coach: Brian McDermott
Expected squad: Carl Ablett, Tom Briscoe, Rob Burrow, Adam Cuthbertson, Brett Ferres, Mitch Garbutt, Ashton Golding, Ryan Hall, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Jimmy Keinhorst, Stevie Ward, Danny McGuire, Joel Moon, Anthony Mullally, Matt Parcell, Brad Singleton, Liam Sutcliffe, Jack Walker, Kallum Watkins
Unavailable: Keith Galloway (Achilles), Brett Delaney (Hamstring), Jordan Lilley
- Castleford (169) have scored 38 more tries than Leeds (131) over the course of the Super League season. The Tigers have shown their attacking prowess all season and they will believe this scoring ability can help them lift their first Super League title.
- Castleford look to score their points in wide areas with 106 of their 169 coming in the LW and RW zone (62.7% of their total tries), thanks largely to Gred Eden and Greg Minikin. In contrast, Leeds scored 54 of their 131 tries (41.2%) this season on the wings with the Rhinos having more joy in the LC and RC zones (46.6%).
- Although they have received plenty of plaudits for their free-flowing rugby, Castleford's defence has also been solid, too. They have conceded 15 fewer tries than Leeds, (97 vs 112).
- Leeds' middle zone has proven the toughest zone to crack of any team over the course of the season. They have conceded just five tries in the middle zone which has also seen them produce the lowest percentage of any team's total conceded tries in any zone (4.5%).
Analysis - what to expect
The Super League season draws to a close on Saturday with its showpiece final at Old Trafford as the two best teams in the country go head-to-head. Castleford have demonstrated their qualities all season and won the League Leaders' Shield as a reward for losing just five times from their 30 league games. Leeds have also shown how capable they are in what has been a remarkable season for the Rhinos - a huge turnaround after they didn't even qualify for the Super 8s last season. Leeds have the big game experience that Cas might lack and have seven Grand Final trophies to back that up. However, Castleford's winning run against Leeds is significant and they can extend that record to nine wins on the bounce at Old Trafford to claim their maiden Super League title. The absence of Hardaker doesn't help matters, but the Tigers seem to have the beating of this Leeds side and could also win the game by more than eight points, something that the winning side in the Grand Final has achieved only once in the last five years.
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