1st February 2018, 14:34 | 

Castleford eye historic win at Saints

Castleford eye historic win at Saints

Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell says his side will go to St Helens with no fear as they look to make more history.

The Tigers ended a 91-year wait for a top-table finish last year on their way to reaching their maiden Grand Final and are now aiming to start their 2018 Betfred Super League campaign with a first away win over Saints for 25 years.

“Our record is not great there,” Powell said. “We went there on purpose to play them in pre-season last year and played really well, it set us up.

“We can go there and win, absolutely. It will be a tough challenge, no doubt, they’re a good side, but we’re a good side. We’re not going to go there with any fear.”

Powell is set to field 15 members of his Grand Final line-up, Jy Hitchcox and Alex Foster being the only definite absentees, while new captain James Roby will lead out a little-changed Saints team on his 400th appearance for his home-town club.

St Helens are highly-fancied to go one step further than last year, when they lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Tigers in a gripping semi-final which left its scar on Justin Holbrook’s men.

“The pain of that semi-final loss is still there and probably won’t go until the new season kicks off,” said Holbrook, who revitalised the club following his appointment in mid-season.

“We fought really hard to get into the four and we need to start the season better this year to be a bit more consistent all year to not make it so hard on ourselves.

“It’s a promoter’s dream for us to draw Cas in round one and it’s a game we’re looking forward to.

“I can’t see them being any different this year. They’re a well-coached, well-organised team with quality players so I can’t imagine them all of a sudden falling away.”

Wigan Warriors, another of the early-season title favourites, go to Salford Red Devils on Friday night without skipper Sean O’Loughlin but confident of making a winning start before they fly to Sydney to take on Hull in round two.

The Red Devils are embarking on a new era without controversial owner Marwan Koukash and coach Ian Watson is hoping an opening-night victory can silence the critics who are already writing off their top-eight chances.

“It’s a great game to open up the season and an exciting one for us,” Watson said. “Last year the first game was against Wigan as well and we came out on the wrong side of that. Hopefully we can come out on the right side of this one.”

Hull Kingston Rovers are hoping for a repeat of the result of their inaugural Super League match in 2007 when they host Wakefield Trinity at KCOM Craven Park.

Danny McGuire was preparing to play in the 2008 World Cup when Rovers grabbed a dramatic 14-9 win over Trinity and, 10 years on, will be hoping to inspire them to a similar result on his Hull KR debut.

Coach Tim Sheens admits a good start is crucial if the Robins are to prove the doubters wrong, saying: “Winning doesn’t mean you’re going to make the semis and losing doesn’t mean you won’t but the main thing is that a win in our first game would take the pressure off the squad and make them relax a bit.

“The longer it takes you to win that first game, the tougher it is, so we need to play strongly, control our game and make sure we put the points on the board and come away with a good win.”