Castleford Tigers travel to Leeds Rhinos’ Headingley Carnegie stadium where they haven’t won since the first game of the 2010 season.
With the departure of the Bradford Bulls from Super League at the end of last season, Leeds’ closest rivals are now the Castleford Tigers, and this game is given all the same feel that was afforded to the Bulls. Leeds kicked off this enhanced derby with a 26-12 win in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.
The Tigers managed to steal a draw at Headingley in this fixture last season, with prop forward Grant Millington stealing a try in the closing minutes. It was the closest they have come to victory at Leeds since that game at the opening of Super League VX.
Of the two teams, in recent weeks, Castleford have the better run of form. They saw off a late fightback by Hull KR on Friday night for their 4th victory in the previous six games. A stark comparison with Leeds who, still remaining at the top of the table, have only won two of their last six.
The Rhinos did look all the part in their last victory. From the opening of the 2nd half they ran in 34 unanswered points in 23 minutes.
Leeds the strong favourites
Albeit, the win came against bottom of the table Wakefield, it is a feat that shows the attacking prowess and ability to close out games that they have failed to show in recent weeks; scoring an average 21.2 points and conceding an average 26.8 points in the five games previous to their victory over the Wildcats.
It necessitated all the resilience of Castleford’s defence to secure victory over Hull KR at the weekend. They twice led early with a margin of 18 points, but the Rovers clawed the deficit back to only 2 points, before a late Liam Finn try sealed the win.
All points at this stage in the season matter. With St. Helens playing last Thursday, and Leeds only Sunday, the Rhinos found themselves unseated from the top of the table for a couple of days.
This week, themselves playing in the first game of the round, Leeds know that a victory will guarantee them a place on top of the table come Sunday afternoon.
Conversely, a loss for Leeds will see the Tigers jump from 6th place to 4th and put 5 points between them and the nearest team outside the playoff positions.
Both teams, then, have much to gain from the win, and could very well rue their performance on Thursday should a loss come to haunt them at the end of the season.
The bookmakers make Leeds the strong favourites, perhaps rightly so; but it is worth noting that the league leaders have a short turn around, having played only on Sunday.
Castleford will not stop pressing all game, and though an upset is certainly possible, Leeds are still expected to edge the game out.