Castleford Tigers v Widnes Vikings
Castleford Fan: Michael Preston
Where do you even start breaking down a performance like last Friday? It would be nice to just take positives from the game and believe it or not there were some! But you can’t avoid the fact it was a performance you would never expect from a Daryl Powell Castleford team. It certainly brought back memories of the Ian Milward days.
Plenty of excuses have been made but I don’t buy into any of them, the 26 year wait for a league win at St Helens is fresh in the minds of all Cas fans, but I’m not buying that the players mentally accepted defeat before getting off the bus. If anything it should have been a huge marker set for the lads to go over there and leave with the 2 points. Second excuse I don’t buy is the World cup putting us back 3 weeks. It certainly didn’t harm the displays of Roby & Percival in particular. Last year our defence was incredible, but after 5 minutes we dropped off one on ones, within 10 minutes we had 3 players behind the play the ball leading to the second try and things just went downhill from there. I think the most disappointing aspect was the lack of effort, heart and pride. It wasn’t until Kyle Amor had a brain explosion that we looked likely to score. Our link-up play wasn’t there, Ben Roberts was far from fit or comfortable to play at the back, our right edge defence was shocking and if Millington was selected when too unwell to play it was a ridiculous decision.
I did mention a couple of positives, one being McShane making over 50 tackles and the second Ollie Holmes with a decent 80-minute performance on his comeback from a disappointing couple of years with injuries. I thought Greg Eden tried hard, as did Jesse and James Green in attack but that was about it.
What’s frustrating as a fan is the obvious elephant in the room being the vacant fullback position. I get that most of the cap would have been pre-empted way before the grand final and you couldn’t foresee the events that occurred but surely even a out and out full back on loan for a season would have been a better option until you find out the result of the ZH ban and then have a year to scout for a permanent option in 2019. It’s also frustrating to see the England u19s fullback Callum Turner not being given the nod in pre-season. It was far from ideal Ben Roberts only having 40 minutes at fullback in a pre-season game where it was muddy & raining heavily and then be expected to play the 80 against St Helens away. Ben has been thrown under the bus for me, he needs much more time to get fit for the fullback role if DP is to stick with him.
This week I expect one hell of a backlash and a couple of changes to the 17. The players will know if things don’t go right in the first 10 minutes the crowd will turn. It is vital to get off to a good start, which won’t be a given against Widnes. A fantastic win at home against a poorly disciplined Catalan team was a real confidence boost and a great start to the season for them. As Dennis Betts has mentioned this will be their first test on grass. Chris Dean looked solid on the right edge in round 1 and if you keep Krisnan Inu fit he will be a solid signing this year. Two things I admire about Widnes is the number of juniors they bring through their academy and the way the club has reacted to the devastating news about Kato Ottio. RIP Kato and well done all involved at Widnes.
Score Prediction: Castleford 30-10 Widnes
Widnes fan: Martin Birrell
Well what have we learnt after round one? Are Widnes better than I thought or are Catalans just a very indifferent side? I think we’ll get some of those answers this week.
The Tigers were mauled last Friday at St Helens and I’d expect a big reaction back home at the Jungle this week. It hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Widnes with only one win since we returned to the top flight in 2012.
A big blow for the Vikings is the loss of Patrick Ah Van for the next 12 weeks. With the loss of Kato Ottio in pre-season and now Ah Van it is already beginning to stretch a relatively thin squad. Denis Betts has alluded to the fact that this is a position that needs strengthening. With the loss of Ah Van you fear for our edges on Sunday with the strike power that the Tigers have out wide. I would imagine that young Ed Chamberlain may come into the side so not to disrupt the impressive partnership that Joe Mellor and Chris Dean had against the Dragons last week. Chamberlain had a solid world cup for Ireland and has never let anyone down when called upon.
I think the biggest fear for Widnes fans right now is what happens when we suffer the inevitable bout of injuries? Our first 13 is relatively strong and will compete well most weeks but when we need to call upon some of our younger players the structure of the side becomes disrupted as happened in 2017. I’d like to see another addition to the backline to help shore that up in the case of injuries.
I think only the most optimistic Widnes supporter is expecting a win on Sunday against a Cas side that played some fantastic stuff last season on the road to Old Trafford. The bookies are offering a 14 point start and that seems fair but as our young lads proved last season at the Jungle if you stick in the fight for long enough you just never know.
Score Prediction: Castleford 30-12 Widnes