Garry Schofield reacts to Castleford’s home defeat to Warrington Wolves last Thursday night
Ready, steady, go…
The play-offs are upon us, and while Hull KR and Leeds will be licking their lips at the prospect of being involved, what a shame Castleford limped out of contention as they lost to a Warrington side who had already booked a home tie at the elimination stage.
I found it a curiously unconvincing performance by Cas, given it was the big farewell home game for coach Daryl Powell, captain Michael Shenton and the long-serving and popular Grant Millington.
Everything seemed set for a humdinger of a match, and I expected the place to be bouncing, but the attendance seemed surprisingly low and the atmosphere quite subdued.
And it was a far from impressive first-half performance from Daryl’s players, some of whom looked like they already had the old factor 15 on. There appeared to be a lack of purpose, commitment and enthusiasm.
Given there was so much to play or and so much emotion attached to the contest, that was disappointing, especially for the faithful fans who did turn out. Powell, Shenton and Millington didn’t deserve such a damp squib of an evening.
They looked more purposeful in the second half, but it was too little, too late, and now Daryl will head to Warrington having done a fine job, taking the Tigers to a Grand Final and two Challenge Cup finals, but frustrated that the only silverware he has to show for his efforts is the League Leaders’ Shield, won in 2017.
Warrington supporters will obviously be hoping Friday’s home clash with Hull KR doesn’t mark their goodbye to Steve Price, with hopes of a first title since 1955 still burning brightly.
The pressure is more on the Wolves than Rovers, who have done really well to get to the play-offs.
During pre-season, only the most optimistic Robin would have expected their side to make the top six while arch-rivals Hull missed out.
There were worries about the financial health of the club, with Chairman Neil Hudgell having announced his intention to stand down and put Rovers on the market, a decision he has since reversed.
Across the city, Brett Hodgson had arrived as coach with star halfback Josh Reynolds also coming on board, but the Black and Whites have slumped alarmingly during the second half of the season, culminating in that dire defeat at Wakefield, while Rovers have proved entertaining as well as being fairly successful under that top operator Tony Smith.
Warrington have added a star halfback of their own in George Williams, and there’s no doubting his talent, but he’s still adjusting to life there, and for me, hasn’t been operating at full throttle.
It’s knockout rugby from now on, so anything can happen, but with Rovers having being dealt a cruel blow with the loss of one of their best players, Matt Parcell, to injury, I’m going for Warrington by 24.
Both Wigan and Leeds will have taken heart from wins over Catalans Dragons and Hull KR respectively ahead of their meeting at the DW Stadium on Thursday.
Wigan have won their last two, but the fixtures fell well for them, given that Hull are in such a rut, while Catalans had already claimed the League Leaders’ Shield.
As I’ve made clear, I’m not a fan of Adrian Lam as a coach, and while Wigan undeniably have that knack of grinding out wins at the business end of the season, I think Leeds will head across the Pennines in buoyant mood and come back with a ten-point win and a place in the semi-finals.
Condolences to a fine manager
I’d like to send my condolences to the family of Les Bettinson, the former Salford player and coach and also RFL president, who has died aged 86.
Les was the tour manager when I went with Great Britain to Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand in 1988.
Mal Reilly and Phil Larder took care of the tactical side of things, while Les made sure we all had what we needed and were happy with the various arrangements.
Tours were lengthy affairs – that one lasted for a couple of months and included multiple matches, nut just the Tests – so the manager had an important job.
He was really good at it, and the best things about Les was that he was experienced, knowledgable and efficient, but also very friendly, and did everything with a smile.
He made a great leadership team with Mal and Phil, he was really popular with all the lads, and it was easy to see why he’d been a successful double title-winning coach.
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