They meet again in a month in the Challenge Cup semi-final, but Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell does not see his side’s visit to Widnes tonight as a dress rehearsal.
Powell believes the clash at the Vikings’ Select Security Stadium is a big game itself with both teams still harbouring Super League hopes and both looking to get back to the impressive form they showed in the first half of the season.
He said: “I’m trying not to think about the cup tie. This is an important game in its own right. Both teams are not really in their best stream of form so it’s an interesting game and it’s important that we get some consistency back in what we’re doing, both in the 80 minutes and game to game.
“It’s a key game and it will be tough because Widnes are a good side when they are on.
“They’ve got some smart players in there. Kevin Brown’s been a key for them, but they’ve got Mellor back and they’ve got some strike in them. Obviously they’ve got Hanbury at the back and they are pretty physical as well so they will be a challenge for us.
“The fact is that over the last three games we haven’t quite been where we need to be. But we played some fantastic rugby league to win that game at the end last week.
“The last four minutes of our performance was superb. It was a highly skilled effort in those conditions to score the winning try.
“I was really pleased that we showed the character to do that and we need to continue with that sort of form leading into the performance against Widnes and try and be a little bit more consistent as a team.
“It looked like we had just got out there at the end. We looked sharp and vibrant, the ball movement was outstanding, but there was the pressure of having to win a game.
“The game itself was stop-start, it was punctuated by a lot of errors because the conditions were quite difficult. But we looked excellent in that last bit. We’ve done that twice now. We’ve lost a couple of games late on, but we’ve won two now at the death, which is always good to know you’ve got that in your locker, that you can come up with those kind of efforts to win a game at the death.”
Castleford travel without their last-gasp try hero from the Salford game with Jake Webster rested. Michael Channing, out for a month with a groin injury, returns and there could be more changes.
Powell said: “We’ve got a lot of players who are pressing. That difficulty of selection is something I’ve been asking for all year and it’s getting tough.
“There’s people pressing all the time and if you have one bad game you are under threat of dropping out of the team. If you have two there’s a strong chance you will be out of there.
“We’ve got people like Nathan Massey and Jamie Ellis, who didn’t play but weren’t injured and are in contention for this week. Jake Webster will miss out, just really in terms of looking after him with his knee.
“Michael Channing is in the squad and he’s fine. He could probably have played last week at a push after getting over his injury, but he’s definitely available this week.”
Powell does not expect the much talked about Widnes pitch to be a problem.
He added: “I think people have got used to it now.
“Guys come off with some heavy grazes when they play on that pitch, but I don’t think it’s a major issue. We trained on this sort of pitch quite a bit in pre-season and I don’t think it’s going to affect us too much.”