New injury blow for Castleford Tigers ahead of Challenge Cup final

HE admits to being deeply frustrated at the constant need to shuffle his side, but Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell is buoyed by the commitment being shown in difficult circumstances.

New role: Castleford Tigers' Liam Watts moved from prop to stand-off.

Castleford endured a fourth successive home defeat when they were beaten 16-6 by Super League leaders Catalans Dragons on Thursday.

Powell had to raise a team without three players on international duty and, after a host more were ruled out through injury, named prop Liam Watts at stand-off.

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However, he insisted he was “proud” of the way his men applied themselves and is confident the team will be in good shape when key players begin to return.

“Obviously, you never want to lose two points, but we had 11-12 players not playing for different reasons,” said the coach.

“It is a little bit frustrating at the moment, but we’ve just got to hang in there and we can take a lot out of the game from a defensive point of view.

“We need to learn some lessons and move on to St Helens next week now and hopefully we’ll get some players back and have a little bit more consistency about us.”

Castleford struggled to create chances close to their opponents’ line, but withstood long spells of pressure and scored a late try. Powell reflected: “We had Wattsy at half-back so you can see what our team looks like at the moment.

“It is a little bit frustrating from an attacking point of view because we couldn’t quite pull our game together, for obvious reasons, but they are the biggest team in the comp’ and I thought we handled them really well. Physicality-wise we were awesome so I was really pleased with that.”

Tigers will be at Wembley in three weeks’ time for their Challenge Cup final date with St Helens and the Catalans defeat gave Powell another injury worry ahead of the big game.

He is hopeful experienced utility-player Jordan Turner who withdrew from the side after their final training session with a hamstring problem, will be available, but young hooker Jacques O’Neill is a bigger concern.

He was helped from the field in the final minutes of Thursday’s game and Powell reported: “It looks like he has done his hamstring.

“It is the same hamstring he did a few weeks back.

“It is disappointing for him, I thought he was going well, both sides of the ball.

“That’s a bit frustrating and Alex Foster got a whack to his face, he will have an X-ray and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for him.

“That’s the game at the moment, it is crazy; with the amount of injuries and what we are expecting from players, it is so hard.”

Gareth O’Brien, who suffered damage to a knee against Wakefield last week, is expected to be fit for the Cup final and fellow half-back Jake Trueman has had an injection which Castleford’s medical staff are confident will ease his long-term back problem.

Seventeen-year-old wing Jason Qareqare, who impressed in successive games, was ruled out of the fixture against Catalans after being stood down on test and trace protocols following a contact at his school.