Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell reckons his team are in for a tough start when they begin the Super 8s at home to an improved St Helens team next Thursday.
The Tigers go into the next phase of the Betfred Super League looking for five more points to win the League Leaders’ Shield and are obviously keen to get off to a good start, but face a Saints team who are eyeing a play-offs place after some strong recent displays since Justin Holbrook took over as head coach.
“They have improved and there’s a lot more ball movement in them,” said Cas head coach Powell.
“They are really challenging teams and they have a bit of form behind them so it will be a really tough one.
“Then we’ve got Salford away and Wakefield at home before the Challenge Cup final so two home games leading into the next break.
“We all know where we sit in the table, it’s about going on with our consistency and if we get that right then obviously we’ll get the prize that we want.
“But certainly it’s a tough start against St Helens.”
Powell is hoping to have as many as four of his injured players back for the Saints game, while another two could be back for the start of the next month.
Powell said: “I think potentially Adam Milner, Larne Patrick, Oli Holmes and Jake Webster will be available for the game next week and Junior Moors potentially will be back a couple of weeks later or just after the Challenge Cup final.
“We’re getting a few players back and that really stands us in good stead.
“Greg Eden looked really good when I saw him today so he’s going to be in or around the Challenge Cup final time, which obviously gives us plenty of options.”
Powell is delighted with the players who have stepped in for the injured stars and others who have really stepped up.
He said: “The players who have come in have been superb.
“Obviously we’ve been winning games consistently and that hasn’t changed regardless of who’s been in there.
“I think we’ve had a lot of players playing well, but I think Grant Millington in the pack and Paul McShane have been real stand-outs for us.
“They’ve carried the battle and the guys that have come in or been in there consistently have all been awesome.
“Our pack’s really stood up and on the back of that we’ve got some quality players all over the field in other positions who have been outstanding for us.”
Cas will be without Kevin Larroyer for the Saints game after the French forward was banned for two games for a tackle on Vincent Duport when he put his hands between his opponent’s legs.
On the decision, Powell commented: “Kevin Larroyer is a little bit unlucky, but it was a really awkward tackle.
“That’s not what he was trying to do, there’s no intention there, but ultimately if you put your hand there between someone’s legs and you lift aggressively it’s going to be pretty painful.
“I think we took the punishment on the chin, Kevin will just have to learn from it and move on.”
A similar tackle by a Catalans Dragons player in the same game went unpunished and Powell acknowledged there were some inconsistencies in the decision making by the officials in the game, but he was not making a big thing about it.
He added: “You get the inconsistencies, but we don’t worry about that too much, we just get on with it and hopefully the balance of decisions will turn themselves round at some point.
“I could not understand that penalty try decision. The referee sends it up as a no try and regardless of what happens with the ball being kicked out and you can’t see whether he would have got the ball down or not and whether his legs are in touch.
“It happens with players and it happens with referees that they are inconsistent at times.
“I’m not going to complain too much. I don’t see any point in that, it never really gets heard anyway. We just get on with it. You get things go for you and some against you.
“I thought there were some weird things there and some of the decisions were a little bit inconsistent, but there’s no point in us worrying about it. We’ve just got to deal with things as best as we possibly can.
“We will get Phil Bentham again during the season and we’ve got to be able to manage the game and the way he makes decisions probably a little bit better.
“But we need referees and we need them to do a good job as well. We are all looking for consistency whether we are playing, are referees or as coaches so hopefully that will happen over the really important parts of the season.”