Match preview: Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers
It’s arguably the biggest game between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers in years – as pointed out by Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott – with the winner claiming top spot on the Super League ladder.
And the big story surrounding the clash is the return of Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker, who has completed a five-match ban for using abusive language on the field of play during the Rhinos’ victory against Warrington Wolves earlier in the season. McDermott is also able to call on the services of Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Ryan Bailey and Kylie Leuluai, as the Rhinos get key bodies back at just the right time.
As for Castleford, they are likely to welcome Luke Dorn and Weller Hauraki back into the mix, after both men missed out on last weekend’s heavy victory against Huddersfield Giants. The return of Dorn means that Marc Sneyd will likely revert to half-back again, with Jamie Ellis missing out. Garreth Carvell is still absent, though.
Leeds: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield (c), Delaney, Kirke, Achurch, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Walters.
Castleford: Dixon, Shenton, Webster, Carney, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Finn, Jewitt.
Leeds have won their last four home meetings with Castleford, with the Tigers’ last win at Headingley coming 24-10 on 5 February, 2010.
Kirk needs three tries to reach a career century of touchdowns. Dixon has scored 90 tries for Castleford since 2007, to go with 7 for Hull FC (2004-2006).
Rob Burrow needs 15 points to reach 1,000 for Leeds. Burrow’s total of 985 has been reached with 169 tries, 152 goals and 5 field goals in 403 games for the Rhinos since 2001.
Incredibly tough game to call, but home advantage so often proves to be a deciding factor for Leeds, and it could well turn out that way again. With a number of key stars returning – including Hardaker – the smart money would be on Leeds. But as Castleford have proved this season, they are always capable of springing a surprise!