Thursday’s live SKY game takes us to Castleford, who host what looks set to be a thrilling and feisty West Yorkshire derby against rivals Leeds Rhinos. Both teams go into the game with wins from the previous round, with the home side sealing a memorable 30-22 victory against Warrington, whereas Leeds edged out an unlucky Salford side 20-14 at Headingley, with Liam Sutcliffe clinching a dubious final try late on.
Classy Cas arguably put in the performance of the round last week at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, and will be looking for a similar result on Thursday. One of the most exciting teams to watch in Super League, Daryl Powell’s men go into the game as favourites, with their free-flowing brand of rugby making them dangerous all over the pitch. This was proven by a number of high quality tries last weekend, including a length of the field effort which resulted in Luke Gale scoring from the kick off.
Leeds, on the other hand, have been less than convincing in the opening rounds of the season. Despite being victorious in their previous two games, they have been run close by newly promoted Leigh and last season’s million-pound game victors Salford. They also lost a low-scoring and ultimately low-quality opening game away at St Helens. A victory away at high-flying Castleford would make a statement to the rest of the league that the Rhinos are no pushovers, and will be up there challenging for honours at the end of the season.
It is hard to see past a home victory on Thursday night, with the Tigers looking to be the team to beat in this year’s Super League. Cas have won the last four meetings with the Rhinos, including a 52-12 rout at Headingly in their last encounter. It is yet to be seen how much energy the victory at Warrington took out of the Tigers, and if this is the case, Leeds have every chance to cause an upset.
The Tigers’ squad includes some notable changes from their away win at Warrington, none more so than the absence of half-back Rangi Chase, who is the subject of an internal investigation by the club. Cas are boosted however by the return of influential hooker Paul McShane, forward Will Maher and new signing Alex Foster, who take the places of Chase, Ben Roberts and Luke Million. It will also be interesting to see how Zak Hardaker goes against his previous employers and the reception he will face from the travelling fans.
For the Rhinos, Brett Delaney and Ash Handley return to the squad for the short trip to Castleford. Mitch Garbutt is missing after suffering a pectoral injury in training, whilst both Stevie Ward and Jamie Jones-Buchanan face a race to be fit after picking up hamstring and foot injuries respectively. Despite being named in the squad, Carl Ablett was given a one-match ban by the RFL disciplinary committee, as well as a £300 fine, making him unavailable.
Castleford Squad: Matt Cook, Greg Eden, Alex Foster, Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Andy Lynch, Will Maher, Nathan Massey, Paul McShane, Mike McMeeken, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Greg Minikin, Joel Monaghan, Junior Moors, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer, Jake Webster.
Leeds Squad: Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Matt Parcell, Adam Cuthbertson, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Stevie Ward, Liam Sutcliffe, Brett Delaney, Brad Singleton, Jimmy Keinhorst, Josh Walters, Ash Handley, Jack Ormondroyd.