ASTLEFORD TIGERS aren’t treating tonight’s trip to Widnes Vikings as a rehearsal for the Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final, hooker Daryl Clark says.
Tigers will face Widnes again at Leigh on August 10 with a place at Wembley up for grabs.
But Clark insisted: “You have got to look at it as two separate games. Obviously there’ll be a bit of a psychological battle going on with both teams wanting to get the win before the semi-final, but the Cup is completely different to a league game.
“There’s a place at Wembley at stake in the Cup game, so I can’t see how the two will be two similar.”
Clark said coach Daryl Powell has warned his team against focusing on next month’s Cup clash. “He has told us we’ve just got to concentrate on the league and get some form built up ahead of the Cup game,” Clark said.
“We want to be playing our best rugby when we get to that and if you take your mind off the league than you can get stung, so you’ve got to put it to the back of your mind.”
Tigers will go into tonight’s game buoyed by a last-gasp 14-10 win over Salford Red Devils five days ago, which ended a run of two successive defeats.
Clark said: “Every team throughout the year has a dip. You don’t see a team have a season without a rough patch and I think that was our rough patch.
“We got back to winning ways at the weekend and hopefully we can keep that up towards the business end of the season.”
Clark is hoping for better luck this time than on his previous visit to Widnes’ i-pitch.
He recalled: “I’ve played there once and managed to get injured, so hopefully it’ll be better this time around! I just sprained my ankle, I suppose you could say it was something to do with the pitch but I didn’t look too much into it.”
Powell stressed tonight’s fixture is “an important game in its own right”.
He said: “Both teams are not really in the best of form so it’s an interesting game.
“It is important we get some consistency back in what we are doing in an 80-minute performance and from game to game.
“It’s a key game for us. They’re tough and they’re a good side when they’re on. They’ve some smart players in there, they’re pretty physical too and it is a tough challenge for us, but it doesn’t matter who we play – if we play well we’ve a chance. The fact is over three games we’ve not been where we need to be, but we played some fantastic rugby league to win that game last week.
“The last four minutes of the performance was superb. It was a great, highly-skilled effort in those conditions to score that winning try.
“I was really pleased we showed the character to do that. We need to continue with that form into the performance against Widnes and try to be more consistent in what we deliver as a team.”
Last Saturday’s hero Jake Webster drops out of the squad for tonight as Powell is reluctant to risk his problem knee on Widnes’ artificial surface.
Frankie Mariano is also out from last week’s team, but Michael Channing is available following injury and Oliver Holmes, Nathan Massey and Jamie Ellis are vying for a recall.
Alex Gerrard, Lloyd White and Liam Carberry are back in contention for Widnes, with Grant Gore missing out from the side which won at London Broncos five days ago.
Widnes Vikings from: Hanbury, Ah Van, Phelps, Dean, Flynn, Brown, Mellor, Joseph, Clark, Kavanagh, Galea, Tickle, Cahill, Isa, Leualuai, Allen, Carberry, Garrard, White.
Castleford Tigers from: Dorn, Dixon, Channing, Shenton, Carney, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Wheeldon, Milner, Jewitt, Carvell, Massey, Holmes, Ellis.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.