Castleford Tigers aim to get their defence in order for Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington Wolves
THEY WILL start as underdogs, but Wembley winner Liam Watts believes, if they get their defence in order, Castleford Tigers can book a Challenge Cup final appearance this afternoon.
The only consolation for Castleford from last week’s 60-6 drubbing by Leeds Rhinos is they surely can’t play as poorly again.
Tigers started well, scoring inside the opening two minutes, but then crumbled as the visitors ran in 11 tries, six of them in the first half.
Today’s opponents Warrington Wolves, with half-back Gareth Widdop in imperious form, scored 62 points away to Salford Red Devils last week and it could be a long, painful afternoon for Castleford at Leigh Sports Village, if they don’t do a better job of protecting their line.
“Obviously last week it wasn’t pretty to watch and wasn’t pretty to play in,” accepted Watts.
“We’ve had a good look in the mirror and we didn’t do ourselves any justice; it is not nice to have that sort of margin put on you, so this week defence has been a big focus point.”
Though coach Daryl Powell has denied resting players – and Watts insisted today’s game was not a distraction – the side beaten by Leeds was lacking a host of key players.
Eight who did not feature in that defeat have been named in Powell’s initial 21-man squad for this afternoon and Watts is confident their return will be reflected in a much-improved attacking performance.
“The problem we had at the weekend was our strike wasn’t there,” he reflected.
“We weren’t in any position to cause them a threat, though obviously we started well, but defensively, no matter who is playing in what position, you can’t leak 11 tries.
“I think some of the tries they scored were off the back of defensive errors, that’s something we have to fix up and obviously the team who are out there [today] will be out there to do a job.”
He added: “Look at Warrington and the squad they’ve got, they have a lot of marquee players in there, who are good international players.
“We have to out-enthuse them and out-defend them, it’s as simple as that.
“It is going to come down to defence, that’s what the key is going to be.”
Watts won the Challenge Cup twice during his spell with Hull, but getting to Wembley and helping his hometown team lift the trophy for the first time since 1986 would be extra-special.
Powell, who will join Warrington as their coach at the end of this season, has put an emphasis on the importance the competition holds for the club and town and Watts admitted: “It would give everyone a lift, especially at this moment in time, with Daryl leaving and a couple of lads going.
“I think there’d be no more fitting time to pick up some silverware.
“The Challenge Cup is massive for Cas, they last won it in ’’86 and we’ve been having a bit of a background look at some of the victories and some of the games that have been played.
“We have been having a look at the club’s heritage in the Challenge Cup and games they’ve played in it.
“In 2014 they just came up short, but we are in a semi-final now and we’ve got a big game in front of us, against a very strong Warrington.”
After his experience with Hull in 2016 and 2017, Watts knows what it takes to be successful in the Challenge Cup and believes Castleford have the right ingredients, despite their run of three successive defeats leading into today.
“On our day, I don’t think any team can trouble us,” he pledged.
“We just have to be willing to work for each other and do it consistently.
“That’s something we haven’t done this year and it’s what Daryl is asking for.
“We’ll have to be very consistent in what we do at the weekend; Warrington are a team that don’t go away so we know we are going to be in a game for 80 minutes, or beyond.
“We’ve had two close games in the Challenge Cup so far and we are ready for it to go to the wire.”
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