VICTORY OVER visitors Wigan Warriors tonight would be a big step towards a place in the First Utility Super League semi-finals, Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell reckons.
Wigan are fourth, three places and five points ahead of Tigers, who are aiming for a fourth successive win in all competitions.
“It’s a crucial game for us in particular,” said Powell, whose men will travel to Wigan for a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final next month.
“They are fourth and if we win this it would close the gap to three points and give us a little bit of an edge towards the top-four and hanging around there, which is what we are trying to aim for.”
Last week’s 34-14 win over Warrington Wolves has given Tigers extra confidence, Powell said. They trailed 14-0 after half-an-hour, but hit the then-league leaders with 34 unanswered points in the final 50 minutes.
The coach admitted Tigers need a better start tonight, but he said: “We were under a fair bit of pressure after half-an-hour and to get ourselves back to where we did and to go on with the game without conceding any further points was a strong all-round performance, particularly in the second half.”
Powell described meetings with Wigan as “always tough” and said Sam Tomkins’ return to the team – after a spell with New Zealand Warriors – has made the challenge even greater.
“They are a pretty physical side, they come after you and play with a lot of confidence,” he observed.
“They’ve got a lot of structure in their play that everybody recognises.
“It has been there for a while now. They have got a few tweaks in there, but it’s been consistently a similar structure for a number of years.
“They’ve got good players on the end of what they do and, obviously, they have got Sam Tomkins back. We need to recognise the threat he’s going to throw at us.
“George Williams is also back and he’s good on his feet with a great left foot step. Sarginson, at centre, is another one who’s sharp on his feet off his left, so we need to work hard to shut them down.”
Wigan won 26-12 when the sides met at DW Stadium last month, but Powell feels his men have improved enough to force a different outcome tonight.
“It was a tight game over there,” he recalled. “They ended up being just a little bit too good for us, but there was not an awful lot in it. We defended pretty well, but they were just a bit too good on the night. Hopefully we can flip it. We’ve had some reasonable success against them at the Jungle and we’d like to think we can go on with this game.”
Tigers are without Nathan Massey (head knock) and the injured Ben Roberts from last week’s team. Ryan Hampshire, Lee Jewitt, Will Maher and Larne Patrick are all vying for a recall. Sean O’Loughlin has joined Wigan’s casualty list, with Joel Tomkins, Lewis Tierney and Joe Bretherton competing to replace him in the 17.
Castleford Tigers: from Cook, Crooks, Dorn, Flynn, Gale, Hampshire, Jewitt, Maher, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Moors, Monaghan, Patrick, Springer, Solomona, Tickle, Webster.
Wigan Warriors: from Bateman, Bretherton, Burke, Charnley, Crosby, Flower, Gildart, Isa, Manfredi, Mossop, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Sutton, Tautai, Tierney, J Tomkins, S Tomkins, Williams.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.