On an evening where Humberside is sure to be bathed in sunshine, Castleford Tigers will aim to build on their victory over Wakefield last time out against a Hull FC side aiming to bounce back from a French defeat to Catalans.
Following the 25-24 reverse in Perpignan, the Airlie Birds’ nineteen man squad has been shuffled with some enforced changes. Jamie Shaul and Marc Sneyd return to the fold after family reasons and injury ruled them out last week respectively while Joe Westerman is in contention to make his second debut for the club following his return from Toronto Wolfpack. Albert Kelly, however, is set to miss out due to a hamstring problem picked up in France, the same match where Jordan Abdull suffered a horrendous broken leg. Brad Fash is also absent from this evening’s contest. So far this season, the black and whites boast an unbeaten home record. That, however, is in part due to Warrington and Leeds both visiting the KCOM Stadium when out of form and injury depleted respectively. This, then, signals the start of a big month for the hosts who, after the Tigers’ visit, face Featherstone in the cup, another Hull derby at Magic Weekend and the Wolves away. The results over the coming weeks, then, will outline whether the Airlie Birds are serious contenders for the top four.
They are facing Castleford at a good time as well due to their first choice half-backs both being absent. Last weekend, Luke Gale suffered a fractured kneecap while Ben Roberts is also currently on the sidelines. Wingers James Clare and Greg Eden are both still in the treatment room while Garry Lo has not been re-introduced to the fold as of yet after being stood down last weekend. Throw in forward Nathan Massey’s absence and it becomes clear that this is a Tigers team travelling without a handful of first-choice players. As such, Cory Aston could be set to make his debut in the halves alongside Jamie Ellis and it will be a big test as, if included, is set to go up against Sneyd. That, however, is by no means the biggest clash on the pitch.
Following his move from Hull FC to Cas in March, Liam Watts is yet to face his old team – until today. He is set to line up against Scott Taylor, the England international alongside whom Watts won two Challenge Cup finals and formed two parts of one of the strongest front-rows in Super League. The battle between the two will have a big say on who leaves East Yorkshire with the points today and, knowing his past indiscretions, it will be interesting to see if FC try to wind up the forward in a bid to test his discipline. In the hosts’ line up, master wind up merchant Jake Connor is set to line up in the halves and, bearing in mind his well-known reputation of always having something to say on the field, it is an almost certain bet that he will try to get under Watts’ skin. The player himself, however, has played strong and has demonstrated the appropriate standards in his thus far short Tigers career and Daryl Powell will be hoping he can keep a lid on it as he returns to face his old club.
It promised to be a close game but, with the conditions, an entertaining one also. The hosts’ strong record at home coupled with their guests’ injury issues suggests that Hull FC will edge this but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Tigers leave with something either.
Score prediction: Hull FC by 10
Hull FC squad: Bowden, Connor, Faraimo, Green, Griffin, Hadley, Houghton, Lane, Manu, Matongo, Minichiello, Paea, Shaul, Sneyd, Talanoa, Taylor, Tuimavave, Washbrook, Westerman
Castleford Tigers squad: Aston, Cook, Ellis, Foster, Green, Holmes, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Moors, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Springer, Trueman, Wardle, Watts, Webster
Image found at https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/sport/rugby-league/castleford-tigers/castleford-tigers-41-catalans-dragons-0-shambolic-dragons-blown-away-by-sure-footed-gale-1-9117241