EARLY-SEASON PACESETTERS Castleford Tigers are proving their critics wrong, coach Daryl Powell reckons.
Tigers aim to make it three wins from three – and return to the top of Super League – when they visit Hull KR tonight.
Many pundits predicted Tigers would struggle without star man Rangi Chase, who has joined Salford Red Devils, but Powell brought in eight new faces to replace the five who left at the end of last season and competition for places is paying off in terms of performances and results on the field, he believes.
“Rangi leaving created a bit of money to make the squad a bit deeper,” Powell reflected. “Some people criticised us for replacing quality with quantity, but I don’t necessarily agree. We’ve got plenty of quality and more depth as well. Players improve in a good environment and we’re seeing the fruits of that.”
But Powell insisted Tigers aren’t getting carried away with their positive start. “It is just about being consistent and taking it one game at a time,” he stressed. “We have got Hull KR in front of us and it is a tough place to go.
“They are a pretty big, physical team, but it is about us and making sure our performance levels are right. Then if we are good enough to win a game we will win it. Teams are going to prepare well against us, regardless. We have spoken about not getting too carried away with ourselves because we’ve started the season well. It is about maintaining our effort levels and our honesty, which I think there is a great deal of within the team at the moment.”
Tigers conceded an average of more than 30 points per game last year, but have so far let in only 24 in two matches played. Powell said: “You can look at other things as well, such as our kicking game – which I think has been fantastic. If you finish in the right areas you minimise opportunities for the opposition to break you down. I think we’ve done that well and defensively we’ve minimised the number of tackles we’ve been missing.
“It has been under 20 in the trial game and the two games so far, which is a significant decrease. That is what we spent a lot of time focusing on in pre-season. If you work hard generally you get the fruits of your labour.
“As you get into the season teams look at how you are defending and come up with ways to pick you off and play against you.
“That’s where we need to be consistent in what we are doing.”
Tigers have also scored more than 30 points per game so far.
“With a bit more clarity in our execution we would have scored more,” Powell said.
“We created a lot of opportunities, but our decision-making wasn’t right. There’s lots of things we can improve on. It is not so much we’ve won two games, it’s the manner in which we’ve won them and the attitude of the players. That says more about what we’re doing than the two wins.”
Tigers are without the injured Jordan Tansey, but Luke Dorn is fit again and comes in to replace him, with Richard Owen and Jamie Ellis both on stand-by.
Keal Carlile, Graeme Horne and Craig Hall are all vying to replace suspended former Wakefield Trinity Wildcats prop Justin Poore in Rovers’ squad.
Hull KR: from Eden, Cockayne, Welham, Salter, Caro, Burns, Keating, A Walker, J Hodgson, J Walker, Larroyer, Langley, Costigan, Green, Lovegrove, Cox, Carlile, Hall, Horne.
Castleford Tigers: from Dorn, Dixon, Channing, Shenton, Carney, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Millington, Milner, Mariano, Wheeldon, Fleming, Owen, Ellis.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.