Castleford Tigers travel to Headingley off the back of their first loss in 8 games, while Leeds come into the Round 19 clash off the back of a comprehensive win against Featherstone in the Challenge Cup.
LAST TIME OUT
Leeds put together a comprehensive performance against Featherstone to extend their run to 4 games unbeaten at home. The Rhinos started quickly with a muscular effort from Stevie Ward just 3 minutes in. Brett Ferres followed up with a try just 10 minutes later, before Joel Moon crossed for another to extend the home sides lead to 18 points after just 15 minutes played. Ash Handley capped of the half with a minute to play and the Rhinos went into the sheds after scoring 22 unanswered points.
Featherstone managed to put up a sterner defensive effort for the first 10 minutes of the second half, however, it was the next 20 minutes where Featherstone collapsed, with Leeds scoring 5 unanswered tries to get the half-century up. This included efforts from Liam Sutcliffe, Carl Ablett, Ash Handley, and a quick fire double from Brad Singleton. Ryan Hall topped off the thrashing with a try in the final 10 minutes, as the Rhinos defence remained resolute. Their comprehensive victory marked the second time Leeds have held at team to nil in a month.
By contrast, Castleford slipped up at the KC stadium to lose for the first time in 8 games – with their prior loss coming to the same team, at the same venue. Hull completed the double with a great game plan; to take the points when they are on offer. After conceding two early tries through Carlos Tuimavave and Fetuli Talanoa, Castleford replied with two of their own from Ben Roberts and Zak Hardaker towards the back end of the 2nd half to level the score before Jake Connor put the black and whites ahead going into the sheds with a valuable penalty.
Hull continued in the same vein with Connor adding another 2 pointer just after the half time break, and despite conceding another Ben Roberts try soon after, Hull stuck to the game plan and took another penalty to level the score at 18-18. Jake Connor continued to get success off the tee with another penalty to put FC in the lead and Mahe Fonua soon franked Lee Radford’s game plan with a sensational try just 15 minutes from time. Jamie Shaul followed up a few minutes after to give the hosts some breathing space. Castleford mounted a comeback in the last 10 minutes, but could only crack the Hull defence for a consolation try from Greg Minikin.
Castleford lost to a more pragmatic side last time out, and that was pretty much all that separated them in the end; 4 penalty kicks. If they are to get back on track in this one, they’ll need their halves to be on fire. Leeds have an astounding home record having only lost 1 in their last 17 at Headingley, and the Rhinos’ halves are much improved this year with Joel Moon seemlessly slotting into his new roll.
In reality, there are key match ups all over the pitch, including Shenton against Watkins and McShane against Parcell, but to stop Castleford you have to disrupt their attacking spine. Hull seemed to some extent to nullify Gale last time out, and while Roberts got success in attack, the Castleford attack was very limited overall – with Castleford scoring an uncharacteristic 24 points over the 80 minutes.
Leeds, on the other hand, also have a very good attack and put 58 past a very able Featherstone side last time out, and they’ll need to score at least 20 this time round to eclipse the Tigers’ prolific attack (something which they’ve done in all but one of their home games in Super League this year).
If Leeds can disrupt the Castleford attack and make it a tough day for the half backs, then they’ve got a chance in this one, but if the Castleford half backs can revisit their form of 2 weeks ago, they have too many points in them for the Rhinos.
There is a lot to be said for the progressive game plan that Lee Radford employed last week against Castleford. In essence, it echoed the sentiment of the saying ‘ Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.
If Leeds can do the same, and take the two pointers when they can, the tries will come, and they will build a big score. Consider that with a decent defence against the prolific Castleford attack, and they’ve got a real chance. In reality, you’ll never beat Castleford in a try scoring battle, so if Leeds try to employ a conventional game plan against the Tigers, I think they’ll lose out in this one.
Unfortunately, I doubt they’ll do the same as Hull last week and Castleford will be fired up to bounce back from being knocked out of the Challenge Cup, so I’m with Castleford in this one. Castleford by 8+
Leeds Rhinos: Tom Briscoe, Rob Burrow, Adam Cuthbertson, Brett Ferres, Keith Galloway, Mitch Garbutt, Ashton Golding, Ryan Hall, Ash Handley, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Danny McGuire, Joel Moon, Anthony Mullally, Matt Parcell, Brad Singleton, Liam Sutcliffe, Jack Walker, Stevie Ward, Kallum Watkins.
Castleford Tigers: Greg Eden, Alex Foster, Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Jy Hitchcox, Tom Holmes, Kevin Larroyer, Nathan Massey, Mike McMeeken, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Greg Minikin, Joel Monaghan, Larne Patrick, Ben Roberts, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Gadwin Springer, Jake Webster.