Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos: opposition star man, key battle, previous meeting and verdict
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It is a big game for Rhinos who could, temporarily, go third in the table. After four successive defeats, Tigers have slumped to second from bottom in Betfred Super League, but victory over their fiercest rivals would be the ideal way to kick start their season. Here’s a scene-setter.
Betfred Super League round five
Where and when?
Date: Thursday, March 16.
Venue: MAH Jungle
Tigers’ star man: An NRL Grand Final and World Club Challenge winner - against Leeds - with Melbourne Storm, stand-off Gareth Widdop was one of rugby league’s hottest properties in the early 2010s. He also played in Australia for St George-Illawarra, being named the NRL’s five-eighth of the year in 2017, before a three-year spell at Warrington Wolves. He joined Tigers in the off-season on a two-year deal and, if his distribution and kicking game are on point, will be a real challenge for Rhinos’ defence.
Key battle: The rival number 13s are both ball-playing loose-forwards. Tigers’ Joe Westerman, now in his second spell at his hometown club, will be keen to prove he’s still at the top of his game against Castleford-born rising star Cameron Smith, who is becoming increasingly influential for Leeds.
Previous meeting: September 3, 2022. Super League round 27. Rhinos 14 (Tries Leeming, Sezer. Goals Martin 3), Tigers 8 (Try Mamo. Goals McShane 2). Referee Ben Thaler. Attendance: 15,418.
Verdict: Results and performances over the last couple of weeks will make Rhinos favourites, but Tigers have upset them in similar circumstances in the past and if ever there’s a game to get their season going, it’s Leeds at home. Castleford have managed just two tries - one of them a penalty - in their past three games and will need to be much better with ball in hand, but if Rhinos get on a roll they will be tough to stop and their greater confidence might swing it.