Castleford desperate for victory
Faltering Yorkshire clubs Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers are both aiming for redemption as they look to prevent Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves turning the Engage Super League into a two-horse race.
The big two have the chance to put daylight between themselves and the chasing pack tomorrow night when champions Wigan host the Rhinos and leaders Warrington visit Castleford.
The Tigers were humiliated 62-0 by the Wolves at the Halliwell Jones Stadium less than two months ago and are coming off the back of a 54-20 trouncing by Catalan Dragons in Perpignan.
With a re-arranged match against Wigan at the DW Stadium next Wednesday, Castleford coach Terry Matterson knows his side face a make-or-break test of their play-off hopes.
“We’re playing the top three in 12 days if you count Catalans, who are in great form,” said Matterson.
“Backing up from last Saturday is important and obviously the last performance against Warrington wasn’t great.
“We had a couple of good performances after that but you don’t forget something like that. They were very good that night. We were decimated and poor. Back at home, we need a reaction from us.
“We need a performance. Whether we win or lose, we need to get ourselves in the game, similar to when we played Wigan a few weeks ago.”
The Warriors were held to a 22-22 draw by the Tigers a month ago but since then have shown their championship-winning form with big wins over St Helens and Huddersfield Giants.
Leeds, conversely, struggled to a win over bottom club Crusaders RL and slumped to sixth place in the table after an eighth defeat of the season in last week’s derby with Bradford Bulls.
Rhinos coach Brian McDermott admits the 2009 champions are “hurting” but remains confident of being able to turn around their fortunes.
“The guys are very determined to produce a performance we are happy with this week,” he said.
“They are working incredibly hard for one another but things are not coming off for us on a game night at present.
“We have a very proud group of players who do not cut corners and who have the desire to be successful. It hurts them that we are not getting our performances right.
“However we will pull together to get through this and will reap the rewards from that.”
Leeds won 27-26 on their last visit to the DW Stadium in the play-offs last September and Wigan coach Michael Maguire says the reigning champions will treat their predecessors with respect.
“It’s always tough against Leeds,” he said. “We’re well aware of that and that’s what we’re expecting on Friday.
“We’ll be trying to take our form from the last couple of weeks into this game.”
Hull FC are the form team of Super League and a fourth successive win at the expense of St Helens tomorrow could lift them up to sixth if other results go their way.
The Black and Whites have not lost to Saints since the 2009 season after completing the double over them last year and drawing 24-24 when the sides met earlier this year at the KC Stadium.
Saints are five points adrift of the leaders after failing to win any of their last three matches but Hull coach Richard Agar insists they are far from a spent force.
“I know some people are not giving them the chances of winning the competition that they’ve had in the past but I strongly disagree,” he said.
“When you look down their roster, they’re full of quality. We’ve have had some belting games with them in recent times and I love the way Saints play.
“They’re not fully focused with the ruck or wrestle element of the game and that lends itself to a fast, open game.”
In tomorrow’s other match, Salford City Reds look to maintain their surge by completing the double over Harlequins RL at the Willows.
They have won three of their last four matches to move to the brink of the top eight and have won the last four meetings with the Londoners.
Harlequins are poised to give a Super League debut to Hemel Hempstead schoolboy Dan Sarginson, who featured against Gateshead Thunder in the Challenge Cup earlier this year three weeks before his 18th birthday and trained full-time with the squad this week after finishing his A-levels.
The match will mark the 300th career appearance of Oliver Wilkes, the former Sheffield, Huddersfield, Keighley, Leigh, Whitehaven, Wigan, Widnes and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats forward who has not missed a game for Harlequins since moving to the capital two years ago.