O’Brien relief after field-goal winner

GARETH O’BRIEN joked that he feared being sacked after he turned from villain to hero to win Castleford their Challenge Cup tie against Salford in golden-point time in Saturday’s clash at Emerald Headingley.

O’Brien landed his field-goal in the third minute of extra time to send the Tigers into the Cup semi-finals, where they were drawn to face Hull FC on 5th June.

It came after the halfback was marched to the sin-bin for knocking Chris Atkin over off the ball in the final 15 minutes of regular time.

O’Brien returned to the field and made up for his error with the winning point.

“I think I was getting the sack next week if it didn’t get over,” he said.

“It was a silly sinbinning and then I gave a penalty away that marched them down the field and then Lee Mossop goes over. So I had to step up and it went over and I’m delighted to make the semis.”

It was O’Brien’s golden-point drop-goal that helped Castleford beat Hull KR in the previous round of the Challenge Cup, and he has revealed that coach Daryl Powell is ensuring that his playmakers are practising drop goals regularly.

“Powelly’s into us about practising them, Danny (Richardson), Truey (Jake Trueman) and I are knocking at least 20 over each week,” he explains.

“Thankfully that one was the first time, not like the Hull KR one that took 20 minutes.”

The Tigers will now face Warrington in the semi-finals.

“That will be a cracker,” says O’Brien, whose career began with the Wolves.

“Hopefully I’ll be selected to play against my hometown club. The prize is a Challenge Cup final and I’ve not played in one, so I’ll be itching to get there.”

Before that Castleford will tackle Hull KR next Monday the Mend-a-Hose Jungle in front of fans for the first time in more than a year.

O’Brien has yet to play in front of the Tigers supporters since joining the club in 2020 from Toronto.

“I’m buzzing, I’ve not played at the Jungle with fans on my side,” he admits.

“I’ve played there plenty of times in the away side, so I know how hostile the crowd can be. I’m looking forward to it and to preparing for it next week.”