Castleford Tigers players are aiming to overcome a big disadvantage as they look to repeat their recent Challenge Cup success over St Helens at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle on Sunday.
Saints come bearing a grudge after being turned over 53-10 in the cup tie and they have been handed an advantage by the Rugby League as they did not have to double up last weekend with their game against Huddersfield Giants allowed to be put back until later this month.
With both teams out of the cup they will meet on the weekend of the next round, the upshot of which being that Saints have 10 days to prepare for their Super League game at Castleford while the Tigers have played two matches since the Merseyside club last took to the field last Thursday.
Cas head coach Daryl Powell, already critical of the decision to have a second holiday double-header for Super League teams, is unhappy with the RFL decision to allow St Helens and Huddersfield to rest up while the other 10 teams slogged it out on Monday.
He said: “First of all I don’t blame St Helens, Huddersfield have seen an opportunity and taken it.
“As administrators, surely there’s got to be some balance given. Don’t create an unbalanced competition by giving a team an unfair competitive advantage, which is what they’ve done.
“It’s an administration without teeth, and it’s appalling they’ve allowed this to happen.
“It’s a massive advantage for St Helens. We played Monday and didn’t train Tuesday or Wednesday. They’ll have had a real good look at us and get an opportunity to present that to us on Sunday.
“For me I’m going to look after the longevity of our season by resting a number of our players this week and make no apologies for it.
“I’m excited by this weekend because we’ve got some players who haven’t played much football this year and some young players who’ll get an opportunity to show us what they’re all about.
“Whilst I’m disappointed about some of the things that have been done this year it gives us a great opportunity to look at the depth of our squad and we’ll get after St Helens and look to get the two points. But it’s certainly going to be a tough one.
“I think it’s crucial for us moving forward that I look after our players because I don’t think there’s enough thought given to looking after them with the schedule that’s been thrown out there by the administrators this season.”
Castleford could not go into Sunday’s game in much better form after winning all five of their games in May to be two points clear at the top of the Super League table and six points ahead of third-placed Leeds Rhinos.
“To back up Friday, Monday is crazy really, but the boys have been awesome,” said Powell after the Tigers beat Widnes 32-22 in the first game and Leigh Centurions 38-0 in the second.
“To defend our try-line like we did (at Leigh) is a massive tick in the box.
“I thought it was a great performance. We were superb in the second 20 minutes of the first half. We defended well all the way through.”
The Leigh win came at a cost with injuries to Adam Milner and Matt Cook and Mike McMeeken up on a charge for a head high tackle on Glenn Stewart, although he should escape a ban at last night’s disciplinary meeting as he is on a grade A charge and has an early guilty plea available.
“I don’t think Adam Milner is going to be too bad. He’s sore and bruised and won’t play this weekend, but I think he will be all right for the week after,” explained Powell.
“Matt Cook got a medial knee injury – it wasn’t a great tackle on him. He will have a scan and he looks like he’s a little bit worse than Adz, but hopefully not too bad.”
Cas look likely to be without five first team forwards for the Saints game as they also lost Gadwin Springer to a hamstring injury in Friday’s game against Widnes, while Oliver Holmes is still out with a knee problem and Larne Patrick is working his way back to fitness after an arm injury, tweeting this week that he hopes to be back in contention for a place in a month’s time.
Powell added: “Oli Holmes hasn’t played in recent weeks because he’s got the same problem with his knee that kept him out before. We’re having another look and it’s been disappointing for him after he got back in.
“He’s got an ongoing injury to his knee that is needing further investigation.”