Not If But By How Many At Wigan
Perhaps one of the most lopsided fixtures of the weekend looks set for Wigan’s DW Stadium (assuming it hasn’t been hired out by the local badminton club) as they welcome the struggling Huddersfield Giants on Sunday (March 19). The Warriors have kept pace with Castleford with four wins out of four so far in Super League and look a racing certainty to add another against Rick Stone’s out-of-sorts Giants.
Despite the loss of Joe Burgess, Oliver Gildart and Lewis Tierney to injury Pie Minister Shaun Wane led his side to a fairly routine 38-16 besting of Warrington last time out. Young winger Liam Marshall filled the Burgess-sized hole effortlessly with four tries while on the opposite side Liam Forsythe added one of his own as both showed that they can step up to this level if and when required. With Dom Manfredi also still out Wane may need to call on his Liams more and more this term, while at fullback Morgan Escare is going well enough to make it difficult to even remember the name of Sam Tomkins without help from the Sky commentary crew.
On the other side of the ledger the Giants are in a right old state. Nilled last week by Leigh Centurions, that followed a comprehensive towelling by Hull FC to leave the 2013 League Leaders outside the top eight as they prepare for one of the most daunting trips of the season. Victories over Widnes and Wakefield have kept them off the bottom of the pile but with Saints and Warrington almost certain to get better at some point these are worrying times for the John Smith’s Stadium club. Only four sides have scored more tries than the Giants but none have conceded more than the 140 points they have shipped in during their first five outings.
Meanwhile Wigan are again failing to set the world statistically but can point to the third best defensive record in the division in terms of points conceded, while only Castleford and Hull FC have missed fewer tackles. Wigan are notoriously hard to beat and should have more than enough offensive fire power to record a comfortable home win in this one.
Castleford Will Keep Pace At Salford
At almost exactly the same time that Wigan are probably handing out a fierce beating to the Giants, Castleford will be attempting to keep up their 100% winning record in Super League when they visit the AJ Bell Stadium to take on Salford Red Devils. Not even Widnes’ 4G knee-burner of a pitch could halt the Tigers progress last time out as Daryl Powell’s side swept to a 34-0 victory at the Select Security Stadium, while Salford slipped to a two-point defeat to a revitalised Wakefield which takes Ian Watson’s side into this weekend hanging on precariously to a top eight spot.
Salford have been a little bit hit and miss so far in 2017. They gave Wigan a 26-0 start on the opening weekend before rallying to a respectable 26-16 defeat, and since then an entertaining TV win at Huddersfield has been followed by a narrow loss to Leeds Rhinos before shocking the increasingly shockable Warrington Wolves and conceding late in defeat to Trinity. It is exactly the sort of form which leaves a club on the fringes of the Super 8s with a high risk of slipping into the scrap for survival. Ordinarily a home game against Castleford would be one that Watson would earmark as an opportunity to pick up points but with the form the league leaders are in it is difficult to make a case for a home win this time.
Castleford have scored 31 tries this term so far, which is 10 more than anyone else in Super League. They lead the way in clean breaks (41) but are defensively solid having conceded fewer points than anyone except Hull FC and missed fewer tackles than all but the black and whites also. Their expansive style hasn’t even led to errors, with no team making fewer than their 36 in four outings so far. While coaches and commentators bang on about completion rates and the reduction of risk the Tigers play a fast, open style but do it efficiently enough that they are not hampered by a repeated propensity for the dropsies.
In short, they are almost certainly too good for Salford.