Phil Clarke: In praise of Daryl Powell’s work at Castleford Tigers

Phil Clarke reflects on the Challenge Cup semi-finals, in particular the performance of Castleford Tigers and how head coach Daryl Powell’s tenure has shaped the team and individual players…

We were treated to two great Challenge Cup semi-finals on Saturday and with both St Helens and Castleford Tigers posting over 30 points in their respective matches, it’s all set up for a thrilling final if they can serve up a repeat of that at Wembley.

Going into the semi-final ties at Leigh Sports Village, the spotlight was understandably on the Tigers’ Warrington Wolves-bound head coach – and the pressure, having been on the wrong end of a 60-6 scoreline eight days previously against Leeds Rhinos in Super League.


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Daryl Powell has the great ability to identify a player and to improve a player – even with the limited resources he has had to work with during his nine seasons at The Mend-A-Hose Jungle.

Gareth O’Brien, for example, wasn’t on many clubs’ wanted list – but Powell recognised his ability, and has given him the confidence to run at defenders.

Suaia Matagi is another example; surplus to requirements at Huddersfield, he and fellow ex-Giant Jordan Turner have been outstanding for the Tigers this year – Turner playing the best rugby of his career.

Daryl Powell has the great ability to identify a player and to improve a player – even with limited resources he has had to work with during his nine seasons at The Mend-A-Hose Jungle.

Sky Sports rugby league pundit Phil Clarke

Similarly, Nathan Massey probably won’t be on many people’s shortlists for the Rugby League World Cup later this year. But his coach has written him an accurate job description, which he carries out to perfection each and every week.

Paul McShane’s performances have made Men of Steel of those around him too, while Powell can also develop a star like Jake Trueman. When you look at Trueman’s progression, Daryl has guided and shaped his career without stifling his natural ability.

That’s what I enjoy most about Daryl’s teams: hard but fair, with a style which gains plaudits from seasoned observers and newcomers to the game.

Fans like to see the ball moved wide to a quick-footed winger, as was the case for Turner’s hat-trick in the 35-20 win over Warrington. The Tigers even take risks and pass in their own half, which other teams don’t.

It would be great if Daryl could end his Tigers tenure on the winner’s podium and the best way to continue Castleford’s Wembley dream would be to back up in Thursday’s Super League game against Hull FC, which is live on Sky Sports.

It’s harder to play well if you’ve won your last match and with their own Cup ambitions over, the Black and Whites will be primed to press down the pedal for Old Trafford. Strap yourselves in for a cracker!

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