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Well, it’s the business end of the season and only four sides remain. The final eliminator sees Salford host Castleford as the pressure heats up. Salford lost for the first time in nine matches against reigning champions Wigan, but they pushed the Warriors all the way, losing just 18-12. Castleford, meanwhile, defied the odds to beat Challenge Cup holders Warrington 14-12 to set up Thursday’s tie at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Salford’s Jackson Hastings was in the thick of the action against Wigan, scoring once and having a tussle with Tony Clubb that ended with the halfback clutching his eye. The Australian ended up in hospital with a scratched eye, but Clubb faced no punishment on the field. Hastings makes the Red Devils tick, so the Salford faithful will be crossing everything possible that he takes to the field.
On the other hand, the Tigers come into this fixture on the back of a determined victory at Warrington. With a steely defence, Castleford kept the Wolves to just two tries – no mean feat in itself – but the West Yorkshire side controlled the game like rarely seen in 2019.
Liam Watts was at his usual best, but the likes of Paul McShane and Adam Milner had their best games in a while – perhaps all year. Though far from creative in the halves, Castleford managed to break the Wolves down and will be hoping for more of the same against an enthusiastic and motivated Salford.
Good news for Salford fans as head coach Ian Watson has named an unchanged squad for the fixture, meaning Hastings is likely to feature. Meanwhile, Tigers boss Daryl Powell has recalled Nathan Massey and Greg Eden from injury as Mike McMeeken and Calum Turner drop out.
The Tigers might have beaten Warrington, but the Wolves were far from their best and haven’t been for months. Salford, meanwhile, pose a whole other challenge; they came so close to overcoming Wigan, but home advantage could be the difference between the Red Devils and the Tigers this week.