Shenton backs young Tigers to shine

Michael Shenton is one of the few Castleford players with big-match experience

Michael Shenton is one of the few Castleford players with big-match experience

First published in National Sport News © by

Michael Shenton insists Castleford will not be like "rabbits in the headlights" when the first whistle blows in Sunday's Tetley's Challenge Cup semi-final against Widnes.

The Tigers are enjoying an excellent season few would have predicted at the start of 2014 and have left their passionate supporters dreaming of a Wembley final.

Daryl Powell's men head into the last-four showdown at a sold-out Leigh Sports Village as favourites to reach the August 23 showpiece despite their lack of big-match experience.

Shenton, who played and scored for St Helens in the 2011 Super League Grand Final, does not expect his less-experienced team-mates to be overawed by the occasion.

The 28-year-old centre said: "That newness to it is special for the guys. We're not going to be rabbits in the headlights. We've got to play the way we play.

"The pressure is there in the back of your mind but once we get into it we've got some guys who are really cool under pressure.

"In the likes of Marc Sneyd, Liam Finn and Daryl Clark we have real cool characters leading us around the park and it's hard to rile those kind of guys.

"We've just got to make sure that as a team we're nice and calm and get into this game. We've got to play as well because we've got to break Widnes down and handle the threats they're going to throw at us.

"They're playing some really good rugby and are coming into a bit of form. It's going to be a pretty special game."

Castleford's hopes of reaching a first Challenge Cup final since 1992 were hit on Tuesday as their appeal against forward Weller Hauraki's two-match suspension was dismissed by the RFL, and winger Justin Carney was handed an identical ban for making a dangerous throw. They are also without injured back-rower Grant Millington.

The Tigers have been backed by their captain to overcome the loss of those three key players.

"They are all leaders in their own right and big-game players, but I think we've shown this year that we've got players who can fill in," Shenton said.

"It's not normally an individual player who does something special for us. Creatively as a team we do things special.

"We didn't have Justin for Wigan (in the quarter-final) so we know what it's like going into a big game without him.

"We know those filling in will be fired up and wanting the game of their lives."

On the possibility of leading his boyhood club out at Wembley, he added: "It's hard for me to get carried away about it, but obviously for the club it would be so special.

"It's hard to put into words what it would mean to me, but we've got to get there first."

Castleford are nine points ahead of eighth-placed Widnes in fourth spot in the Super League table having done the double over the Cheshire club.

Denis Betts, who has taken the Vikings from the wooden spoon to the brink of the play-offs in two seasons, insisted that form counts for little in such a big match.

He said: "There are no favourites going into this game. You look at their position in the table and the bookies might say differently, but we are two pretty evenly-matched sides.

"It's going to be an exciting game and there might be a little bit of anxiety involved among the teams and some errors because of that.

"Whoever handles the pressure the best, comes into the game with the correct attitude, should come out on top."

Betts has handed recalls to winger Paddy Flynn and second row Alex Gerrard, in for Phil Joseph and Patrick Ah Van, as he bids to lead Widnes to their first cup final in 21 years.

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