Castleford Tigers getting into a winning habit ahead of Leigh Centurions clash
WITH three wins from three under their belts in 2021, head coach Daryl Powell believes Castleford Tigers have put the disappointment of last season behind them.
The Tigers won just two of 11 games in all competitions when the 2020 campaign resumed in August after it had been paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year, Powell’s side have started out with Super League wins over Warrington Wolves and Leeds Rhinos before a dramatic Golden Point Challenge Cup triumph over Hull Kingston Rovers last week.
They will aim to maintain their perfect record when they return to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle for the first time since October 1, against a Leigh Centurions side still searching for their first victory of the campaign.
“Winning is a great habit to have,” he said.
“There is a much better feel about the group and we are in good shape physically.
“Last season is history and it doesn’t really matter now. We have just got to focus on what is in front of us.”
When Castleford returned to their home ground in October it was 200 days since their last fixture on home soil, as they narrowly lost an entertaining game against Hull FC.
Come Friday’s night contest, it will have been 197 days from that outing.
The Government’s roadmap out of lockdown is currently allowing supporters to return in limited capacity from May 17 and Powell hopes that date isn’t pushed back.
He continued: “It is awesome to be at home. It has been a while now, it will be great to get back down to the Jungle.
“In the not too distant future you can see fans coming back as well and fingers crossed that is going to happen.
“That will be awesome.”
Despite not chalking up a competitive win in 2021, Leigh have impressed Powell on their return to Super League.
The Centurions, coached by former Featherstone Rovers chief John Duffy, narrowly lost to rivals Wigan Warriors in their opening game of 2021 as they surrendered an 18-0 lead in a 20-18 defeat.
They never looked like causing an upset in their following game against Warrington Wolves and were knocked out of the Challenge Cup by Huddersfield Giants last weekend.
“I think with the ball, Leigh played really well last week against Huddersfield,” assessed Powell.
“Towards the back end of the game against Warrington, they threw a lot of attacking width and shape, had some good lines and good execution.
“They will play with a lot of width and enthusiasm and put us under pressure. They have got some good players.
“They will be a challenge. It is going to be a tough game, we aren’t expecting anything different.”
Ex-Warrington and Wigan centre Anthony Gelling has signed for Leigh this week, following his mutual release from the Wolves at the end of 2020.
Castleford will have decisions to make regarding their team selection after they played for just under 100 minutes against the Robins on Friday night.
Powell reported no serious injuries from that remarkable contest but does have some selection decisions to make with Niall Evalds available after he attended the birth of his baby on Friday.
“We trained on Tuesday and the boys are fine. There are a couple of knocks there but that is what you expect from every game,” added Powell.
“We have trained as normal, we have got one session left on Thursday and then we are back into Super League which we are looking forward to.
“We had thought about freshening it up anyway. We have a couple of decisions to make on players who have got knocks but I won’t know until later in the week with those.”
Powell was frustrated by his side’s first-half display in Hull on Friday night.
However, he was incredibly impressed with the fitness of his players, as they dominated the period of Golden Point.
They limited KR to just two drop-goal attempts in 19 minutes, while hitting nine of their own before finally landing one.
He added; “I think we are incredibly fit. To play for that long and still be going strong, we looked really fit.
“To be able to have a shot at that many drop goals, you have to be in good field position.
“I thought we defended better in that extra time period than we did in the first half. So, that is a positive to take out of it.”