Castleford host Salford at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle as they look to make it 16 wins in a row at home. Salford got the better of Castleford in the same fixture last year in a convincing 32-16 win to end an eight game losing streak against the Tigers away from home.
LAST TIME OUT
Castleford stole a 25-24 win away at Wakefield with Luke Gale finessing a last gasp drop goal after coming from 16 points down at half-time. Wakefield managed to do more than most, however, with the Belle Vue crowd witnessing the first time Castleford have been held to nil at half time this season; no doubt it was a forty minutes the Tigers’ will need to remember and want to forget.
From the off, Daryl Powell’s men fell foul of an enthused Wakefield side with Ben Jones-Bishop profiting from an erratic offload down the Castleford left edge. Finn added the extras and backed up the score with a penalty five minutes later to put the hosts eight points ahead. The two sides traded blows for the middle part of the first half before Kyle Wood cracked the Wakefield defence 12 minutes shy of half time. Finn obliged once more and followed up with his second penalty of the evening, putting the hosts sixteen points up going into the sheds at half time.
Castleford soon re-found their form in the second half with Greg Eden going in from distance after an exquisite pass from Paul McShane in the 41st minute. McShane was influential in the Castleford comeback, having a hand in Grant Millington’s try just 5 minutes later. The Tigers didn’t stop there and continued pressure added yet more points to the scoreboard when Mike McMeeken crossed in the 55th minute to level the scores. Luke Gale added the extras to put the visitors 18 – 16 in the lead.
Despite Castleford pushing into the lead, a resurgent Wakefield side started to get the upper hand once more, and with just 10 minutes to go, David Fifita used every millimetre of the whitewash to give his side the lead. Liam Finn converted and looked to have wrapped it up soon after with a routine penalty 7 minutes from time. However, off the kick off Castleford rolled up the pitch and crossed with Jake Webster; Luke Gale converted and the scores were level. Castleford continued to dominate and off the back of a penalty after the kick off the Tigers got to within 10m of the Wakefield line, from which Gale slotted the drop goal to win the epic 25-24.
On the other hand, despite being favourites for the match Salford lost 24-50 at the AJ Bell Stadium to a clinical Leeds side. Josh Wood opened the scoring after 6 minutes in what looked to be a promising start for the Red Devil’s. However, in what was a defensive collapse, Salford conceded 7 tries in the space of 25 minutes in the remainder of the first half, putting them thirty points down going into the half time break.
Salford came out firing in the second half and scored through Ben Murdoch-Masila just a minute after half time. Leeds replied with a penalty goal to edge closer to victory before the two sides exchanged tries with Salford scoring first through Michael Dobson. Dobson converted his try but it wasn’t long before the in-form Antony Mullally crossed the whitewash in the 68th minute to cancel out Dobson’s effort.
Murdoch-Masila crossed once more in the closing stages of the game but it was too little too late for the Red Devil’s with Leeds leading 44-24 with 5 minutes to play. Leeds topped off what was a clinical performance with a try at the death from Jack Walker to run away 50-24 winners at the AJ Bell.
Ben Murdoch-Masila vs Jesse Sene-Lefao
Despite Salford’s recent drop in form, Ben Murdoch-Masila has been key for the Red Devils scoring four tries in his last four games from second row with thirteen in the whole competition (from 16 appearances). The next best second rower in the competition is Mike McMeeken, second to Murdoch-Masila by 5 tries with 8 for the season. While Sene-Lefao is not as prolific as Murdoch-Masila or his team-mate McMeeken, he is still pivotal in the Castleford side and is arguably one of the best second rowers in the league being part of the best left edge in the league. Whatever the score, it’s going to be a great battle between these two on Friday night.
Mike McMeeken vs Josh Jones
Mike McMeeken is second only to Murdoch-Masila in the tries scored as a second rower in Super League this season. Of his eight tries this season, McMeeken has scored three in his last five games; including a vital try against close rivals Wakefield last time out. He has bags of talent and has had a hand in key victories this season for Castleford, most notably when a weakened Tigers side beat St Helens earlier in the season. His opposite man, Josh Jones, is only one year his senior but has had a rather mixed career after winning the 2014 Super League Grand Final with St. Helens. After a failed code switch at Exeter Cheifs, Jones signed for Salford and has only played 19 games since the start of the 2016 season. McMeeken should have the metal over Jones so we should see plenty of ball coming down the Tigers’ right edge.
Luke Gale vs Salford’s Defence
Luke Gale has been key in Castleford’s attack this season and the times it has faltered, their opposition have disrupted Gale. Gale could have a field day on Friday night and will be relishing coming up against a Salford side that conceded 50 points last time out. If Salford are to stand any chance in this one, they need to sort out their defence and disrupt Gale in Castleford’s attack. Even if they do disrupt Gale, Castleford have the strength in depth all over the park to find and exploit inadequacies in the Salford defence. It looks like another tough day at the office for Salford.
Castleford shouldn’t have any issues bringing a higher intensity in the first half this time out and no doubt have plenty of points in them even on a bad day. Last week’s first half can be written off as a one off, but despite giving their opposition a sixteen point start, the Tigers got the job done. This week they face a leaky Salford defence and should put plenty of points past the Red Devils who will need to do a lot more to beat Castleford at home than what they showed last week. However, if Salford play to their merits they’ll make it harder for the Tigers but this should be a comprehensive win for a home side that are stronger all over the park. Castleford by 16+.
Castleford Tigers: Greg Eden, Alex Foster, Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Jy Hitchcox, Tom Holmes, Kevin Larroyer, Andy Lynch, Nathan Massey, Mike McMeeken, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Greg Minikin, Joel Monaghan, Ben Roberts, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer, Jake Trueman.
Salford Red Devils: Jake Bibby, Todd Carney, Michael Dobson, Niall Evalds, George Griffin, James Hasson, Weller Hauraki, Josh Jones, Olsi Krasniqi, Ryan Lannon, Robert Lui, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Daniel Murray, Gareth O’Brien, Lama Tasi, Logan Tomkins, Jordan Walne, Kris Welham, Josh Wood.