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Category: Super League XXII

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Meet the USA Rugby League World Cup captain … and organic food entrepreneur

Mark Offerdahl grew up in Australia, played club rugby in France and Wales, became an entrepreneur in London, and is about to captain USA at a World CupBy Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport NetworkMark Offerdahl will skip…

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Stevie Ward plays full part as Leeds equal record and begin search for new leader | Aaron Bower

Having battled through depression, the inspirational Ward is a strong candidate to replace Danny McGuire as new leader of Leeds Rhinos

Stevie Ward may not have been the one scoring the tries and garnering the plaudits during Leeds’ Super League Grand Final victory on Saturday, but he is more than deserving of his time in the spotlight.

For all the talk of high-profile rugby league players and their off-field indiscretions in the week leading up the Old Trafford showpiece – in which Leeds defeated Castleford 24-6 – Ward is a shining example of everything that is good in rugby league: the warriors who put their bodies on the line just for a chance of success. Yet it could have easily been so different for a player who has already experienced enough ups and downs to span an entire career.

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Castleford v Leeds: Grand Final 2017 – live!

6.49pm BST

No try! Briscoe is adjudged to have pushed a defender off the ball before grounding for the try and for the second time Leeds are denied by the video referee. Despite everything, it’s still Castleford 0-6 Leeds.

6.48pm BST

37 min Moon pumps one into the sky but Castleford defend it well and come forward again – until Holmes fumbles one and a quick McGuire kick sets up a try opportunity for Leeds. Briscoe gets close to touching down before crashing into the advertising hoardings, and once again James Child refers to the television official…

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Leeds legends aim to end era by crushing Castleford fairytale in Grand Final | Aaron Bower

Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow want to end their Leeds playing careers with another title against their neighbours Castleford at Old Trafford

The home grounds of Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos lie less than 20 miles apart. As local rivalries go, they do not get much more intense. That much will be evident on Saturday night when their two worlds collide at Old Trafford in the 20th Super League Grand Final.

They may be close as the crow flies but the two clubs are a long way apart in many other respects. This is David versus Goliath, played out on the sport’s biggest stage – and, even though the pre-match chatter has been dominated by Zak Hardaker’s omission from Castleford’s squad for a breach of club rules, it still has all the makings of a classic.

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Luke Gale wins man of steel award and aims for Super League Grand Final glory

• Scrum-half only fourth Castleford player to win top award
• Gale has former club Leeds in his sights at Old Trafford on Saturday

It has already been one of the more remarkable periods in one of the more unorthodox careers in rugby league and Luke Gale will now look to add a Super League title to his list of honours after winning the man of steel award for the first time.

The scrum-half is only the fourth Castleford player to win rugby league’s highest individual accolade in its 40-year history. He saw off competition from his Tigers and England team-mate Zak Hardaker and the Hull half-back Albert Kelly to win the award on Tuesday night in Manchester. The Wigan centre Oliver Gildart was named Super League’s young player of the year.

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Castleford’s Daryl Powell: favourites tag means nothing in Grand Final

• ‘It’s all about turning up and playing,’ says Tigers’ coach
• Leeds Rhinos lose Stevie Ward to a shoulder injury

Castleford have been the form team all season but their coach denies favouritism will make any difference in the club’s first Super League Grand Final.

It is first versus second on Saturday evening as Castleford face Leeds but Daryl Powell said the Tigers’ priority was “turning up and playing” at Old Trafford, regardless of which side was favourite.

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Leeds march on to Grand Final showdown with Castleford

• Leeds 18 Hull FC 16
• Rhinos head to Old Trafford after nailbiting Headingley win

For well over a decade, there is little doubt that the Super League landscape in Yorkshire has been dominated by Leeds Rhinos. Since Bradford’s Grand Final victory of 2005, no side from the county has lifted the trophy high at Old Trafford other than Leeds – but next Saturday, the Rhinos’ dominance will be put to the ultimate test in the season’s showpiece finale.

Six months ago, in the days following their 66-10 defeat at Castleford, the Leeds coach, Brian McDermott attracted criticism aplenty for suggesting his side could still reach – and win – the Grand Final for the eighth time. Then, it appeared a ludicrous comment, given how the Rhinos were only months removed from their annus horribilis of 2016 which saw them finish ninth and flirt with relegation.

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Luke Gale golden point beats St Helens and puts Castleford in Grand Final

• Castleford 23-22 St Helens
• Luke Gale scores winner 16 days after appendectomy

On nights like these, it seems unfortunate that someone has to lose. For Castleford’s critics, the argument had been for months that when the play-offs came around, the runaway Super League leaders would fail to cope with the expectations of a do-or-die play-off semi-final.

Next Saturday will dictate whether they have the credentials to go all the way and become Super League champions at Old Trafford, but this was a tick in the box which some believed Daryl Powell’s side were incapable of conquering. However, while Luke Gale’s drop goal – 16 days after emergency surgery to remove his appendix – was the game’s decisive moment, it does not even begin to describe 86 minutes of sporting drama which underline that when Super League is good, it is seriously good.

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Toronto, Toulouse and Perpignan? How the Championship went cosmopolitan

The part-time players in the Championship will need to keep their passports handy next year – and that’s before more clubs arrive from across the Atlantic

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport Network

On Saturday evening we will know whether Catalans Dragons or Leigh Centurions will be playing in the Championship next season. The losers of the Million Pound Game (that name – eurgh!) will go down and the odds are on a spineless Dragons team failing to play to their potential at a hostile Leigh Sports Village. That will be a great shame for Catalans and French rugby as a whole, but there are positives amid the gloom. It would mean two derbies with Toulouse Olympique and both clubs would be expected to challenge Toronto Wolfpack and London Broncos for promotion.

And that, in a nutshell, is the other problem. Part-time clubs in the Championship will have to travel to all four of those exciting destinations, flung far from the M62. Throw in either Barrow or Whitehaven – who meet in the League 1 play-off final on Sunday – and the financial impact on clubs such as Swinton, Batley, Sheffield, Featherstone is considerable. But they better get used to it, as there could soon be away trips to the USA and Ireland on the schedule, too.

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St Helens in prime spot for semi-finals after win over Salford

• Super 8s: Salford 4-30 St Helens
• Wigan would need huge win to deny neighbours

Whether it is Castleford on Thursday or Leeds 24 hours later in the semi-finals, it is increasingly clear that St Helens are in no mood to let this season peter out with a whimper.

When Justin Holbrook arrived on these shores in May and inherited a side whose fate appeared more likely to be in a battle to avoid the Qualifiers as opposed to the race for Old Trafford, few would have fancied St Helens being in this position.

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Castleford hold off Wigan after Jake Trueman hat-trick puts them on course

• Wigan Warriors 20-38 Castleford Tigers
• Teenager produces thrilling all-round display at half-back

Jake Trueman gave Castleford significant reason to be cheerful with a thrilling performance at half-back in place of the injured Luke Gale. The 18-year-old scored a first-half hat-trick of tries to set his side on course for victory, although they had to withstand a strong comeback by Wigan during which a Castleford collapse many had predicted appeared to be happening.

With 20 minutes remaining, Wigan had reduced a 26-0 deficit to 10 points. They looked the stronger side and Castleford’s mettle was being seriously tested, having previously looked supremely comfortable.

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Gareth Ellis’ late try for Hull breaks Wakefield Trinity’s resistance

• Hull 19-18 Wakefield
• Hull well placed for play-offs

When Gareth Ellis’s illustrious playing career comes to an end at the conclusion of this Super League campaign, it is perhaps fitting that his biggest challenge in his new role as the club’s head of rugby will be finding someone to replace himself.

It was inevitable that if anyone were to drag Hull’s title challenge back on track here, it would be their talismanic captain. So often the man to pull them out of a hole when they need it most, Ellis’s late try – which put Hull ahead for the first and only time in a pulsating encounter – helped keep FC’s hopes of the double alive: but only just.

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Jonny Lomax the St Helens hero in dramatic win over Wakefield in Super 8s

• Super 8s: Wakefield Trinity 16-18 St Helens
• Trinity in charge for 78 minutes before centre’s all-important try

There are still plenty of twists and turns to follow in the final few weeks of this most enthralling of Super League seasons but quite how the scriptwriters drummed up this finale, with St Helens winning by two points at Wakefield is anyone’s guess.

Such has been the nature of an unpredictable year it has seemed entirely possible a club’s season could rest on a single play. It is perhaps typical of St Helens that, when they are in desperate need of something, anything, to stay alive, they somehow find it. Jonny Lomax’s try with two minutes remaining, which put the visitors ahead for the first and only time, was that moment but how Saints were aided by their opponents in the closing stages.

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Who will join Castleford and Leeds in the Super League play-offs?

With three rounds of games left, even eighth-place Huddersfield Giants can reach the play-offs – although prop Shannon Wakeman says it’s ‘extremely unlikely’

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Having watched Wigan and Leeds winning tricky fixtures on TV last week, you would be forgiven for assuming they will join League Leaders Castleford and Challenge Cup winners Hull FC in the play-off semi-finals at the end of the month. But Wakefield’s astonishing season, only overshadowed – much to their chagrin – by the sublime weekly exploits of their deadly rivals Cas, goes on. Beat St Helens on Thursday and they will end the Old Trafford dreams of not only Saints but Salford and Huddersfield, too. Wakefield will then be crossing everything that Hull see off Wigan again on Friday night. They would put Wakey three points clear with two games to go. Wins for Saints or Wigan and it becomes any two from four to join Cas and Leeds.

Before the last round, Huddersfield looked dark horses for the semis. If results had gone their way, they could have been just a point off fourth right now. Instead, they lost at home to Castleford and returned to the dressing room to hear that Wakefield had hammered Salford. That double whammy leaves Rick Stone’s Fartown almost certainly out of the play-off equation, five points adrift with only three games to play. However, imagine this: St Helens win at Wakey on Thursday, Hull beat Wigan on Friday and Huddersfield win at Salford on Saturday. It could happen – and the gap would be down to three points with two rounds left!

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Widnes on track for top three after Lloyd White try helps beat Leigh

• Qualifiers: Leigh 8-24 Widnes
• Widnes in top three of Qualifiers and set for Super League return

Widnes took a significant step towards a swift return to the top flight next year with a 24-8 victory here in the Super 8 Qualifiers. At times this season they have looked in serious danger of being in the Million Pound Game when the Qualifiers come around. But the Super 8s truly show what a team is all about and, with three rounds left, it looks much clearer who will finish where come the end of the Qualifiers.

At the top Warrington andHull Kingston Rovers appear on course for a top-three finish and an automatic place in Super League for 2018. Below them is a three-team battle for the final spot between Widnes, Leigh and Catalans. This victory for Widnes, their third in succession, puts them firmly in pole position for the third.

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St Helens’ Ben Barba overshadowed by Wigan’s superb Sean O’Loughlin

• Super 8s: St Helens 16-26 Wigan
• Wigan still have Grand Final chance

Wigan’s defence of their Super League title they won last October has been littered with suggestions Shaun Wane’s side are incapable of retaining the trophy next month in the Grand Final.

And on occasions that scepticism has not been without reason – but as the calendar ticks over into September Wigan are beginning to peak at just the right time once again. And what a night they chose to prove it, as the Ben Barba fanfare in St Helens was silenced by their fiercest rivals.

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Hull FC hoping to follow Challenge Cup win with Super League success

• Hull want to avoid repeat of last season’s slump after winning trophy
• Victory parade on Monday is closely followed by a tricky trip to Leeds

Scott Taylor has issued a rallying cry to his Hull FC team‑mates to use their Challenge Cup triumph as a springboard for the remainder of the Super League season.

“The double is massive,” said the prop, a Wembley winner with both of the clubs who contested the final on Saturday. “We know we can beat anyone on our day and that’s the goal now.”

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Castleford secure first league title after overpowering Wakefield

• Castleford 45-20 Wakefield

For Castleford, this was a night many of their supporters – and players – may have thought would never materialise. Many have attempted to devalue the importance of the League Leaders’ Shield as Castleford closed in on the prize in recent weeks, but as the gates were locked at this famous old ground just before kick-off, it would have taken a brave man to try to suggest it meant nothing for a town where rugby league is everything.

Related: Castleford’s Daryl Powell: winning league bigger then Grand Final victory

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Castleford’s Daryl Powell: winning league bigger then Grand Final victory

• Castleford on verge of winning League Leaders’ Shield for first time
• Coach believes feat is better than Grand Final or Challenge Cup win

The Castleford coach, Daryl Powell, has insisted the League Leaders’ Shield is the biggest prize available in rugby league as his side close in on winning it for the first time.

Castleford have never finished top of rugby league’s first division in their 91-year history, a record they will lay to rest on Thursday night should they avoid defeat against local rivals Wakefield.

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Castleford’s Daryl Powell: winning league bigger then Grand Final victory

• Castleford on verge of winning League Leaders’ Shield for first time
• Coach believes feat is better than Grand Final or Challenge Cup win

The Castleford coach, Daryl Powell, has insisted the League Leaders’ Shield is the biggest prize available in rugby league as his side close in on winning it for the first time.

Castleford have never finished top of rugby league’s first division in their 91-year history, a record they will lay to rest on Thursday night should they avoid defeat against local rivals Wakefield.

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