Hosts Castleford Tigers face a rejuvenated Rhinos side at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle on Thursday night. Daryl Powell’s men suffered a crushing defeat against Warrington while Leeds tasted victory for only the second time this season, on a night of contrasting fortunes for the two Yorkshire sides. Who will triumph at Wheldon road?

LAST TIME OUT

Cas were mauled by table topping Warrington at the Halliwell Jones last Friday night in a performance described by head coach Daryl Powell as “hugely disappointing”.

The Wolves ran in 11 tries and saw the Tigers off with their tails between their legs. Castleford conceded seven tries in the first half, three of which came within the first 15 minutes in a dismal performance which prompted Powell to apologise to the fans after the game before blasting his players in a furious tirade. Castleford didn’t get on the scoreboard until the second half, with Gadwin Springer powering over. Halfback Luke Gale produced some solid kicking to help the Tigers to a modest haul of 12 points by the final hooter but in truth, as Powell himself summed up “we were never at the races.”

“They absolutely annihilated us in every department. It was a terrible effort, so soft in every way. There needs to be some changes in terms of the way the players are going about their work at the moment. They have to change their mindset and work ethic.”

Visitors Leeds, meanwhile, enjoyed a scrappy but confidence boosting win over a very poor Saints side at Headingley. Three tries to the good in fewer than 12 minutes, the Rhinos set a blistering pace that St Helens couldn’t match. Returning veterans Carl Ablett and Jamie Jones-Buchanan both crossed, while youngsters Liam Sutcliffe and man-of-the-match Ash Handley also scored decisive tries.

Hooker Beau Falloon put in a lively performance and added much-needed bite to the Rhinos’ attack. Prop Keith Galloway, who has been under fire from some supporters for a perceived lack of effort so far, turned in his most accomplished performance in blue and amber since joining from the Wests Tigers.

Having recorded their second win, the Rhinos have also received the welcome news that winger Tom Briscoe and skipper Danny McGuire are both recovered from injury and re-join the squad for Friday night. As the champions return to full strength, they will look to make up for lost time in what they must surely see as two winnable games over Easter. Cas have injury problems of their own and have shown defensive frailties for Leeds to exploit while Monday’s fixture sees basement dwellers Wakefield in the Rhinos’ crosshairs as they visit Headingley.

KEY BATTLE

Friday’s result is likely to boil down to the performance of the hookers. Leeds have shown a particular aversion to defending against quick play-the-ball. Adam Milner must seize on this weakness and inspire his side to register early scores against the champions if they’re to right the wrongs of last week’s disaster.

Beau Falloon was a revelation for Leeds against Saints, and is already being touted as another Danny Buderus. The Australian, who joined from the Gold Coast Titans, will be keen to deliver another epic performance and fire the Rhinos to what could be successive wins over the Easter break.

PREDICTION

Castleford enjoy home advantage, but are missing several players through injury. Powell’s squad receives a timely boost in the shape of returning Ben Roberts and Lee Jewitt. Leeds meanwhile, are almost free of their own severe injury crisis, which has plagued their season so far, with only Ashton Golding and Stevie Ward ruled out, although winger Ryan Hall is unlikely to start after sustaining a dead leg against Saints.

This should be a highly entertaining local derby, on balance quite evenly matched. I fancy a resurgent Rhinos to kick on from their win against Saints and take maximum points at the Mend-a-Hose by a try or two.   

SQUADS

Castleford Tigers (from): Boyle, Crooks, Gale, Hampshire, Hitchcox, Jewitt, Lynch, Maher, Massey, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Monaghan, Roberts, Solomona, Springer, Webster.

Leeds Rhinos (from): Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Galloway, Falloon, Cuthbertson, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sutcliffe, Delaney, Keinhorst, Mullally, Walters, Handley, Ferres.