Castleford Tigers Vs Widnes Vikings
Finally, last season’s top against bottom come face-to-face as Castleford host Widnes.
But both are in much different positions currently in the table, clearly putting the form book to shame.
Ben Roberts Vs Rhys Hanbury
First up is a meeting between two adaptable figures in Ben Roberts and Rhys Hanbury.
Roberts was chosen to replace the disgraced Zak Hardaker, dropping down from half-back.
Hanbury experienced such a move earlier on in his career, something he has relished ever since.
Similar players, going by their side-stepping, support and kicking games and could very well prove to be the telling difference.
Paul McShane Vs Lloyd White
Next up, we look at both hookers in Paul McShane and Lloyd White.
McShane has arguably been an underrated player in Super League in recent seasons, something he has to remedy on top of the Tigers’ form.
But White can prove a worthy opponent as he can cause plenty of havoc when most don’t expect it.
Both players will wish to dictate the play around the ruck and will need to link with the half-backs to stand any chance of remaining a consistent threat throughout.
Mike McMeeken Vs Matt Whitley
Finally, a look at the back row funnily enough as Mike McMeeken goes up against Matt Whitley.
McMeeken has been superb in recent seasons with his ball handling skills and his brute force going forward.
But Whitley has been a revelation with the Vikings, quickly rising up through the ranks to become a fully-fledged first teamer by displaying similar skill.
Their support out wide will be invaluable to either team in what could be a feisty clash.
Some would say prior to the season that this could only go one way but currently, that apple cart could easily be upset.
The Tigers will either be seething or under-confident following last week’s lesson of humility.
True, they have talent still in Roberts, McShane and Luke Gale but they failed to develop any sort of rhythm last week.
It can all change in front of your home fans but can they cope with the loss of Hardaker?
Looking at their back line, still plenty of talent and experience there in Michael Shenton, Jake Webster, Greg Minikin and Greg Eden.
All of whom have scored plenty of tries between them and should pose a threat here.
Adding to that is Castleford’s wide array of forward in McMeeken, Oliver Holmes, Grant Millington, Jesse Sene-Lefao and Junior Moors.
The Tigers are still capable of dismantling teams and this is what Widnes have to be careful of.
But don’t doubt Widnes for a ‘banana skin’ here as they proved a few wrong last week when they comfortably overturned Catalan.
They have Joe Mellor and Hanbury to thank for such an achievement and alongside White, all three have to stand up and be counted in this one to combat Castleford’s threat.
They also have to lead the youngsters in their ranks in Tom Gilmore, Ryan Ince and Danny Walker, should they feature.
But the Vikings have experience as well; boasting size and speed in Krisnan Inu, Stefan Marsh, Charly Runciman and Chris Dean as three-quarters.
Then of course their pack in Gil Dudson, Alex Gerrard, Chris Houston and Hep Cahill.
Never underestimate Widnes as they are easily capable of surprising some.
But here, the task looks too big as they have their weaknesses that Castleford are more likely to exploit.
Losing Patrick Ah Van may hinder them, meaning their squad will have to rotate, and a heavy talking point in pre-season was whether their squad depth was good enough.
That and their away form has been rather disastrous in recent seasons as they head to what Castleford made a fortress last season.
That and Castleford will probably play the quicker rugby league that will eventually wear the Vikings down.
It’ll be quite a battle but Widnes’ resistance will crumble and Castleford should get their season up and running here!
Prediction: Castleford Tigers 32-18 Widnes Vikings
Photo by ANZ Stadium Twitter