Archive for the ‘Castleford Tigers’ Category

Season Review: Castleford Tigers

September 24, 2009

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Points For: 645

Points Against: 702

Home Record: W4 L9

Away Record (including Magic weekend): W10 L4

Longest Winning Streak: 4

Longest Losing Streak: 5

Top Points Scorer: Kirk Dixon (170)

Top Try Scorer: Kirk Dixon (17)

Top Tackler: Joe Westerman (728)

A season that should be judged as successful ended with a bitter twinge, but overall Castleford had a year of real progress. The bottom side twelve months ago, the Tigers forced their way into the top half of the table this year and into the playoffs, where they narrowly lost their elimination game to Wigan. Although they weren’t the most consistent side, they did play with a real sense of exuberance when they were on form, and their crop of young players meshed well with some wily veterans to create a side that was entertaining to watch (if a little inconsistent). 

The young guns all kicked on this year, all except for possibly the brightest potential star. Joe Westerman didn’t quite reach the heights he achieved last year, although he did more than his fair share of tackling in the middle of the park. But Michael Shenton pushed on towards international honours, Kirk Dixon and Richard Owen also both reminded everyone that there’s more to the Cas production line than the main two (Owen should consider himself disappointed not to at least get a call up to the England train-on squad). The veterans also helped out as well, with Brent Sherwin proving himself an adept on-field general, and Dean Widders 

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Wigan Warriors 18 – 12 Castleford Tigers

September 21, 2009

A rather fiery game at the DW Stadium last night, as Wigan held off a spirited Castleford comeback to move on in the Super League playoffs and eliminate the Tigers in the process. A fair number of missed high shots and a lot of hard-hitting drives and tackles meant that this had all the makings of a brutal classic. Wigan undermined that somewhat by cruising out to an 18-0 lead thanks to tries from Harrison Hansen, George Carmont (both assisted by Pat Richards from high-bombs) and Amos Roberts (after nice work by Sam Tomkins). Craig Huby and Joe Westerman scored late on to add a frisson to the final proceedings, and in the end a speculative cross-field kick by Michael Shenton just bounced into touch before Kirk Dixon could get to it, and with it went the Tigers’ hopes of a comeback.

Wigan won this game because of two reasons. Firstly, thier forward pack completely dominated for the most part, especially when Iafeta Paleaaesina and Stuart Fielden came onto the field. Fielden offered stability whilst Feka did his usual cannonball impression, which was exactly what the Warriors needed at the time. Secondly, the Wigan kicking game was superior all night, especially towards Pat Richards who helped contribute to the opening two tries for Wigan. Rather like Wakefield the night before, by the time Castleford found their mojo, it was too late. I won’t lie, my first thought about Wigan’s first try was that George Carmont knocked it on, but Wigan had building building up the pressure and made it pay.

Castleford’s players took too long to get into the game, which was a shame because late on they were playing pretty smoothly. Mitchell Sargent and Craig Huby definitely offered their best go-forward, and the backs often looked good when they got decent service (which unfortunately for them happened far too little). Richard Owen may have just played himself into the England squad with his performance (he’s got to worth looking at in the train-on squad at least). Had Owen not been denied by the tackle of the playoffs from Carmont early on, it might have been a different game. It’s a shame that this young, talented side couldn’t maintain more consistency this season, which showed very much in this game, but it’s been a good learning experience for them, and they should ones to look out for next year. After all, they were a funny bounce of the ball from leveling this game late on. 

As for Wigan, it’ll be interesting to see how they fare away from the DW Stadium. I imagine Craven Park will be a hostile environment next Saturday, but then Hull KR have been fairly weak lately and Wigan could definitely shut the crowd up early. Their forwards have got themselves some push at the minute, their backs have been scoring machines all season, and they have an exciting combination in the halves. They’re a surprisingly youthful side but I don’t think they’ll be overwhelmed by the occasion. If Hull KR aren’t on form then Wigan are more than capable of capitalizing. Even if Hull KR are playing well, Wigan might be able to keep up with them. Either way, it should be fun.

Playoff Preview: Wigan Warriors vs Castleford Tigers

September 20, 2009

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Previous Meetings:  They’ve split a game each this season, Cas winning their meeting at the start of the season and Wigan winning a few weeks ago. Both games were close, decided by six points or fewer. These clubs have generally had close encounters over the past few seasons. It’s worth pinting out that Castleford’s best run in the Super League playoffs involved winning at the DW Stadium (then the JJB) in 1999.

Form: Wigan had been in good form until their visit to the Galpharm last week. They will no doubt hope that was an aberration. Conversely, Castleford had been in a mini-slide until they crushed Harlequins and surged past Celtic Crusaders. Even so, the scrappy nature of their win against the bottom side last week isn’t necessarily the lasrgest confidence boost going into this game. 

Thoughts: Of all the potential upsets this weekend, I can’t help but feel that Castleford have the best shot. They’ve got a full strength side, talented players, a smart coach, and they’ve already won at this ground this year. They also have some unfinished business to attend to over their narrow loss a few weeks ago. Castleford won’t be lacking for motivation. 

Nonetheless, Wigan have an interesting statistic going in their favour: Brian Noble has never lost his opening game of a playoff series as a coach. He also happens to be the most successful coach in the Super League playoff era and even if I think it’s unlikely this Wigan side will add to that tally, I do think that his experience will count for something (as will home advantage).

His experience may very well be needed as well to balance out the youthful exuberance that Sam Tomkins will bring to his first playoff series. If Castlefod can get to him and unsettle his nerves, then that might serve as the foundation for a winning gameplan. I’m not sure how many chances the Tigers are going to get, so they will need to execute with precision on the occasions they do get a chance. It’s also worth noting that several of their key players (Michael Shenton, Joe Westerman etc.) are also Super League playoff rookies, although they did win the Nation League One playoffs a few years ago.

In Conclusion… A very tight game to cal, but I think the home advantage may just help sway this Wigan’s favour. I very much doubt either side will manage to blow the other one out of the water, and it may turn out that a rugged forward battle allows some nice tries to be scored. As long as Wigan can show that last week was a mistake, and that the form they’ve been building before that is more reflective of their current state, then they should be okay. If it’s not, then I don’t think Cas will refuse the chance to put them away.

Hull FC 24 – 16 Castleford

May 5, 2009

So Hull kept getting back on track, and Castleford stayed in this relative mini-slump of theirs. It all could have been so different though, as this was a back-and-forth contest in which both sides pushed each other all the way, and it’s a shame that the result of the match was heavily influenced by a dodgy refereeing decision. Phil Betham penalised Mark Wainwright for a dodgy play-the-ball with the scores level in the final ten minutes, but it looked like a) Wainwright had a Hull man interfereing with him and b) he managed to play the ball correctly. In the end the penalty was enough to force Cas to chase the game and also to provide Hull FC with a comfort zone that they took through (and even increased) to the end. 

Hull will be glad to have come away with the win in their second close encounter in a row. They showed great spirit in coming back three times during the match, and they took advantage of the chances they got very well. Danny Washbrook is finally overcoming a spell of injury to really make an impact. Willie Manu was also a threat both in attack and defence, as his constant attempts at ball-stealing tended to either work or force the TIgers to take extra care around him, thus reducing their second-phase play. Even though they’ve only just managed to win their last two games, Hull have still won them and look like they’re regaining their mojo. 

Cas in turn will feel disappointed and possibly even cheated. In the end, Hull were the better side though and Cas really gifted them field position with a kicking game that bordered on shocking at times (Brent Sherwin sent the ball straight dead twice). Cas had a cutting edge but they seemed to lack a finishing ability, and they relied on a near-miracle play for one of their tries (see below). Their forwards were also up for the tough battle in the middle, but they seemed to be lacking dynamism (a Mitchell Sargent break down the middle notwithstanding). Cas strike me as a side who are treading water at the minute but they’re not that far off, and once they hit a groove again I think they’ll get back on the winning track. 

One more thing… Kirk Dixon’s move to keep the ball in play in the Hull in-goal for the Tigers’ third try (scored by Jamie Evans) was probably the most spectacular bit of play of the whole weekend. Pure instinct on show there, and it’s a shame it wasn’t in a winning effort. I’ve got a gif of the move hidden behind the link (as not to overload the frontpage). If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend having a look. 

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Castleford Tigers: Young guns need to tear up The Jungle

January 31, 2009

castleford203I find it interesting that one of the main beneficiaries of this new licensing system that is aiming to fast track expansion is one of the most storied, grandest, traditionalist clubs of all. Cas have already seen gains come out of the licensing system, through not getting relegated at the end of a disappointing return campaign in Super League last year where they finished six points adrift at the bottom. But as well as that, it’s enabled them to keep hold of some of the most promising talents in the game.

Castleford had an odd season last year. For the first month it genuinely crossed people’s minds that they might now be able to win a game, such was the woeful nature of their play. Then they scored probably the upset of the year with a more-than-convincing 38-20 victory over the newly crowned World Club Champions, Leeds Rhinos. In fact, amongst their seven league victories were games against the Rhinos, St Helens and Warrington, which seemed to imply their downfall was a lack of consistency more than anything else. After all, this is a side that conceded 68 points against St Helens one week, only to score 66 against Harlequins the next.

Castlefords points tally for wasn’t all that bad, although it could do with some improvement. There’s fairly good reason to assume that will happen, as their back-line is full of young players who should be much better for a season’s worth of experience under their belts (given the paucity of options for England in the threequarters, look for Michael Shenton to be challenging for international honours this year). What they really need to work on this season is their defence. Castleford last season felt like a team that once you finally broke them down, the floodgates would open. Castleford need to find out how to either a) not get broken down or (more realistically) b) learn how to rally back from adversity.

Realistically, you would have to assume Castleford would be hoping to scrape into the playoffs if things fall into place for them during the season. They probably need to establish momentum early, as the impact of their terrible start ended up dragging down their whole season last year. As long as they’re putting up a fight this season, and if their young talents are performing at a high level, they should be entertaining to watch. (more…)