After the humiliation of the Tigers’ opening round defeat to St Helens, every Cas fan will be ecstatic to see the Tigers sitting on four points from their opening three games. You do, however, get the feeling that the Grand Final defeat and the manner of that defeat still hangs over the club somewhat. It might take a while for that feeling to go for both the players and the fans. We’ve not seen anywhere near the best from the Tigers yet in 2018 but things are slowly falling into place for them.
Despite bringing in quite a few new signings, for the most part, the core of the side has remained the same. How important do you think this has been for Daryl Powell and Castleford?
With several key players being signed up to new and improved deals in 2017, it was always going to be a case of quality not quantity with off-season signings. The most important signings for Castleford were the new contracts for players like Luke Gale and Grant Millington. Castleford always had the problem of losing their best talent to rival clubs but signings like those signal the change of attitude at the club.
Obviously, the glaring omission this season is Zak Hardaker. How do you think the trio of Ben Roberts, Jamie Ellis and Luke Gale are working together?
Jamie Ellis has only recently come back into the team having missed the first game away at St Helens but he was man of the match against Hull FC and looks like he will prove to be a shrewd capture for the Tigers. Playing next to the great organiser that is Luke Gale, it gives Ellis the freedom to express his ability and he is doing just that. Having a halfback at fullback can be a positive but Ben Roberts has got to improve his fitness levels so his fatigue doesn’t affect his skill level. There’s no doubt he can be a success at fullback but he will have to work harder than anyone else in a Tigers shirt in training if he’s to do so.
Greg Minikin has scored in each of the last two games for Castleford. How good has he been in the early stages of the season so far?
Greg Minikin is an outstanding young talent and his inclusion in the England Knights Squad is fully deserved. He’s a strong carrier of the ball and, when you have players inside you with the experience and skill of Jake Webster and Mike McMeeken, it’s hard not to score tries really. His try against Widnes was really well taken, beating two defenders to score when Castleford needed a moment of magic. He’ll be one to watch, especially with Greg Eden not available.
Castleford are known for the strength in their pack while The Red Devils have impressed down the middle, also. How do you see the forward battle panning out?
Like most Rugby League games, the forward battle will probably be where this game is won and lost. Castleford don’t have the biggest pack but they do have the most skilful one in Super League: Players like Junior Moors and Grant Millington can hurt any team with their footwork and ball skills. Salford will badly miss Craig Kopzcak up front but still possess some big units in the pack. Clever work from Josh Wood and Logan Tomkins from dummy half is the key to unlocking the Tigers: James Roby did it perfectly earlier in the season for St Helens, allowing Ben Barba and his pace to dictate.
How do you see the game going overall?
If Salford are to win, they need to control Paul McShane and the Tigers pack. That’s easier said than done, especially when Castleford are at home having only lost two games at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle in 2017. The crowd always gives them a real lift allowing them to roll down their short pitch. When Luke Gale is playing behind a dominant pack, Cas are unbeatable.
Score Prediction: Castleford Tigers 34-18 Salford Red Devils