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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Castleford ace Gale could be ready to blow Saints away

Saints have lost ten of their 15 road trips and make no appeal

Castleford's Luke Gale has been recovering from an appendix operation
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Betfred Super League playoffs semi-final
Sky Sports Arena, 7.45pm Thursday

The Betfred Super League field has finally been whittled down from 12 to four and Castleford, Leeds, Hull and St Helens are just two wins from Grand Final glory.

Racing Post Sport followers are guaranteed to have a finalist in next month's Old Trafford show­piece as Thursday's first semi-final pits pre-season picks Cas against Saints, who were selected before the Super 8s.

The Tigers go into the playoffs as 11-8 favourites and are a best-priced 1-2 to reach their first Grand Final.

Castleford finished 17 points clear of Saints over the 30-game season, but this is a far from straightforward puzzle for punters with the picture clouded consider­ably by doubts over the participation of Tigers half-back Luke Gale.

The Man of Steel favourite had an appendix operation just 16 days ago and although Gale has been named in the squad after returning to training, there's no guarantee he will play.

Saints receive a six-point handicap start but that line is likely to change one way or the other as soon as Cas coach Daryl Powell hands in his teamsheet.

Given the back story, if Gale does play and the Tigers triumph, it would almost come as a surprise if he wasn't named man of the match, which makes the 6-1 offered by the competition sponsors look outstanding value.

Ignoring last weekend's home hiding by Hull, when they fielded an under-strength side, Cas have won 17 of their last 18 league matches.

The solitary defeat in that sequence came when Thursday's opponents won at The Jungle in August.

Saints were superb that night in a 26-12 success, but it was an isolated performance in a generally disappointing season as far as away results are concerned.

Justin Holbrook's team have lost ten of their 15 road trips and would make no real appeal at 9-5 even if Gale is absent.

Holbrook is set to recall Jonny Lomax, who missed the win at Salford which booked Saints' spot in the post-season.

The England international is 11-4 to repeat his tryscoring feat of the last visit to The Jungle, but it may be better to play safe and take the 4-5 that Cas flyer Greg Eden gets on the scoresheet.

Super League’s top tryscorer didn't play in the previous clash with their semi-final visitors but has bagged five tries in two outings against Saints this term.

L Gale to be man of the match
2pts 6-1 Betfred
G Eden to score a try
2pts 4-5 Coral, Ladbrokes

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If Gale does play and the Tigers triumph, it would almost come as a surprise if he wasn't named man of the match
E.W. Terms
Sky bet