In one of the most anticipated fixtures going into 2022, two teams at the start of new eras battle as Daryl Powell’s new club hosts his former club.
Warrington began the season with a less than convincing performance at Headingley edging a 12-man Leeds team 22-20 thanks to a late Connor Wrench try. Meanwhile, his successor at Castleford had a much more disappointing start when they were shocked at home against Salford. They suffered a 26-16 defeat to the Red Devils as Marc Sneyd kicked seven from seven against his former club and indeed his old boss.
They’ll be desperate to claim a first win of the season against their former coach whilst the Wolves will want to maintain their 100% record. Which side though will claim the win they so desire in Round Two?
The big news for Warrington is the potential return of skipper Jack Hughes and talismanic centre Toby King. King’s presence in the squad does put match winner Wrench’s position in doubt. Oliver Holmes picked up a ban for a high tackle against Leeds which has now been extended to two games after the Wolves appealed meaning he won’t feature against his former side. There’s no Daryl Clarke for the Wire following a head knock against the Rhinos.
The Tigers meanwhile will be without Danny Richardson meaning Gareth O’Brien will likely make a first appearance of the season. Youngsters Cain Robb and Sam Hall have been included in the 21-man squad however much of the 17 who featured in the loss to Salford remain with Richardson the only one to drop out. Bureta Faraimo is included despite picking up a yellow card against the Red Devils.
Peter Mata’utia v Jake Mamo: Although it’s unlikely that the two right centres will come across one another directly, both will be eager to shine against their former clubs having essentially swapped teams going into 2022. Mata’utia’s Wire debut perhaps went under the radar, but he grafted hard and has the skill to cause his old side problems. Meanwhile, Mamo may have the flair to devastate the Wolves.
Danny Walker v Paul McShane: In Daryl Clarke’s absence, all the focus will be on Danny Walker as he steps into the number nine spot. Against one of the best hookers in the league and the 2020 Man of Steel, Walker will have to be at his absolute best to help the Wire to victory. His running game may well be key against Paul McShane who is the complete nine and if he’s given dominion over centre field the Tigers will be tough to stop.
Ben Currie v Alex Sutcliffe: Ben Currie has been one of the best second-rowers in Super League over the last few years and at times is incredibly tough to stop. Stopping him will be the task of up and coming backrow Alex Sutcliffe. After impressing in pre-season due to his defence, it’ll be interesting to see if he can contain Currie.
Where the game will be won and lost
Despite having a man advantage, Warrington were routinely rolled down the field against Leeds last week losing the ruck again and again allowing Leeds to dominate the middle channel. Looking at Castleford’s pack, they have the potential to cause Warrington similar problems and in Paul McShane they have a hooker who could create gaps around the ruck leading to chances.
However, in Gareth Widdop and George Williams they have a six and seven capable of creating chances from deep as they did against Leeds. Shutting this down will help the Tigers claim the points.
We saw on Saturday that Warrington don’t need to dominate a game to win it. In many ways, they could be the perfect counter attacking team in 2022 owing to the players they have and the attacking structures Daryl Powell will no doubt be introducing.
If the Tigers can get a roll on down the middle, you might make them favourites but they’d have to take their chances. If they don’t the Wire may catch them off guard from deep as they did against Leeds with Gareth Widdop’s opening try.
Verdict: Warrington Wolves 22-14 Castleford Tigers