St. Helens may struggle to tame in-form Tigers.
Once again, it’s St Helens who hog the TV limelight tonight when the unbeaten Merseysiders cross the Pennines for an unlikely top-of-the-table clash with Castleford Tigers at the…err… Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
Shocking stadium name aside, the scene is set for a mouth-watering clash featuring two sides each averaging over 30 points-per-game in the Super League this season.
Following some savvy off-season recruitment – which addressed the imperative acquisition of an ‘organising half-back’ in the shape of Luke Walsh – nobody is too surprised to see St Helens sitting pretty at the apex of the table after seven rounds.
But, Castleford? To have tipped them to be lying ahead of Warrington, Leeds and Wigan at this stage of the season would have seen someone run the risk of being sectioned!
After all, the overwhelming prognosis was that Castleford would never be able to replace mercurial talisman Rangi Chase – a man whose hold on the Cas’ attack was akin to George Michael’s influence on Wham! Yet, even with the now-Salford genius at the helm, Castleford could only finish 12th last season, so how on earth are they well set for their best season in years?
Well, the simple answer is the tactical acumen of coach Daryl Powell.
The former Leeds Rhinos and Featherstone Rovers supremo has proved a revelation in the hot-seat since replacing Ian Millward less than a year ago and has fashioned the Tigers into a much more formidable outfit by weaning them off their long-standing reliance on Chase’s flamboyance and remoulding the side into a much more cohesive unit.
Powell’s new-look side now sees local props Andy Lynch and Craig Huby providing plenty of size and grunt up front, while an all new half-back pairing of Liam Finn and Marc Sneyd bring arguably the best tactical kicking game in Super League to the table, all of this linked together brilliantly by exceptional young hooker Daryl Clark.
With former Saints’ centre Michael Shenton performing to a level which has prompted whispers of an international recall, and bustling Aussie wingman Justin Carney continuing to weigh in with a ratio of around a try a game, Castleford will go into Friday’s encounter full of confidence, particularly as they have already upset Wigan on home soil.
But, all things being equal, Castleford still fall well behind St Helens in the quality stakes. A spine of James Roby at hooker, Luke Walsh at half, and Johnny Lomax at full-back is as good as it gets in Super League, while Tommy Makinson and Adam Swift supply serious speed on the flanks to compliment the game-breaking brawn of Polynesian forwards Willie Manu, Sia Soliola and Mose Masoe.
All natural logic points to Saints maintaining their unbeaten record on what has proved a largely happy hunting ground in recent years, but we at BetBright smell potential for a possible upset here.
Whilst Castleford were effectively in cruise mode in last weekend’s Challenge Cup routing of championship club Batley, St Helens emerged battered and bruised from a torrid struggle with Huddersfield which only saw Saints scrape through by virtue of a controversial late drop-goal scramble.
Those exertions – coming so soon on the back of another bruising encounter vs Leeds the previous week – have to take their toll at some point. With a hectic Easter programme, which includes local derbies vs Wigan and Widnes, also on the horizon immediately before a potentially epic Challenge Cup quarter Final vs Leeds, Brown may struggle getting his boys fully tuned up for this match.
Most handicap lines currently offer Castleford receiving 10 points start. That looks more than fair under the circumstances, while a small punt on Castleford winning outright at 11/4 is advised too.
The match throws in at 8pm tonight, you can bet on Castleford Tigers Vs. St. Helens Saints over on our main site now!