There are Dragons in the Jungle on Sunday when Castleford play host to the Catalans. Castleford were knocked off the top of Super League in the last round and the Catalans fell to their first loss of the year at the Stade Gilbert Brutus. What is more dangerous when wounded, a Tiger or a Dragon?
Last Time Out
The Castleford Tigers suffered their first defeat of the season last Sunday, losing by just one point (final score 13-12) to the Salford Red Devils at the AJ Bell Stadium. The game started well for the Tigers who went ahead when a high kick from Luke Gale was not dealt with and Gale, in the end, got the try from the resulting chaos. Gale then converted his try to put the Tigers six in front. Salford hit back before the break with an unconverted try from Ben Murdoch-Masila to make it six points to four in favour of Castleford at half time. The Tigers have the best attack in Super League so far this season but they found the Salford defence tough to get through. Eventually though, Greg Minikin forced his way over the line (dragging three defenders ten metres in the process) to make it, with a Luke Gale conversion, twelve points to four and a fifth straight victory looked on the cards. Salford, however, had other ideas. A second try from Ben Murdoch-Masila, this time converted, reduced the deficit to two points. Castleford then gave away a penalty in front of the sticks and Salford took the two points on offer to level the scores. Step forward Gareth O’Brien, who famously consigned Hull KR to the Championship with a long range drop goal in the Million Pound Game last year. After missing his first attempt, the Tigers knocked on from the restart giving O’Brien a second opportunity, which he took, to give the Red Devils their surprise victory. With Wigan scrapping a draw against Huddersfield, this was enough to knock Castleford off the top of Super League.
Over in the south of France, the Catalan Dragons experienced their first home defeat of the season on Saturday afternoon losing 24-28 to St Helens in a high intensity and high scoring fixture. Most of the damage was done in the first half, which saw seven scores in a hectic forty minutes, with tries from Adam Swift, Mark Percival, Ryan Morgan, and Adam Walker for St Helens and replies from Thomas Bosc, Julian Bousquet, and Iain Thornley for the hosts giving Saints a 22-18 half time lead. The home side did go in front with a Paul Aiton try, converted by former St Helens half-back Luke Walsh, and they proceeded to dominate most of the rest of the second half. They could not, however, get passed the Saints defence and with eight minutes remaining the away side took their chance when a break and audacious pass from Theo Fages put Jack Owens in at the corner for his first try of the season and a hard fought victory for St Helens.
The Catalan Dragons are without two important bodies in Greg Bird and Jodie Broughton but, despite that, there should still be a number of interesting encounters. Zak Hardaker seems to have put his troubles behind him and has settled in nicely at fullback for the Tigers. Given the trouble Catalans fullback Tony Gigot is in, it is up to veteran Thomas Bosc to take his place opposite Hardaker. Speaking of troubles, Ben Roberts has done a good job at Castleford replacing Rangi Chase but this week he is up against a quality pairing of Luke Walsh and Richie Myler. His battle, alongside Luke Gale, could determine the game. Up front it will be a bone crunching encounter between Sam Moa and Remi Casty for the Dragons and Andy Lynch and Grant Millington for the Tigers. I wouldn’t like to be in the middle of that!
Many expect this match to be an easy return to winning ways for Castleford but I think it will be quite tight. Both teams will be licking their wounds after close defeats last week and I can see this being a cagey encounter with neither side willing to take the initiative. Ultimately I think the home side will overcome the visitors but not by as much as most people think.
Castleford Tigers by 6
Castleford Tigers: Rangi Chase, Matt Cook, Greg Eden, Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Oliver Holmes, Andy Lynch, Nathan Massey, Paul McShane, Mike McMeeken, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Joel Monaghan, Junior Moors, Ben Roberts, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer and Jake Webster.
Catalan Dragons: Krisnan Inu, Brayden Wiliame, Fouad Yaha, Luke Walsh, Richie Myler, Sam Moa, Paul Aiton, Rémi Casty, Louis Anderson, Justin Horo, Julian Bousquet, Ben Garcia, Thomas Bosc, Jason Baitieri, Vincent Duport, Luke Burgess, Iain Thornley, Alrix da Costa and Thibaud Margalet.