Salford Red Devils v Castleford Tigers - Daryl Powell plotting Super League and Challenge Cup double

THERE is no scope for dress rehearsals when Castleford Tigers visit Salford Red Devils tonight – coach Daryl Powell says they must get it right this week and next.

Milestone: Nathan Massey, centre, pictured playing against Salford last season, will rack up his 250th Tigers appearance against the same opposition tonight. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

The West Yorkshire club face Richard Marshall’s side in Betfred Super League action at the AJ Bell Stadium this evening before meeting again in a Challenge Cup quarter-final at Emerald Headingley a week tomorrow.

In one of those strange quirks that sometimes occur, Hull FC and Wigan Warriors – who played last night – are in the very same position, too.

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Victory in the league game would presumably leave the victor in a stronger position – at least psychologically – for the Cup affair ahead, something which is crucial for Castleford’s coach who is hoping to bow out with a Wembley win before he moves to Warrington Wolves in 2022.

However, Powell maintained: “I think you have got to separate them and take each one on its merits.

“We want to make sure we get it right over the two weeks.

“I’ve been in these situations before quite a few times.

“I remember, when I was at Leeds (Rhinos), we played St Helens twice when there was that iconic game where Danny McGuire scored in the corner in the Challenge Cup semi-final.

Castleford's Gareth O'Brien kicks for goal against Leigh (Picture: SWPix.com)

“Everybody has their own different philosophy on it, but we need to win them both – I think that’s the important thing.

“It’s about getting the strategy right over both games.

“We’ve worked hard on that. And I’ve got a lot of experience in those situations.”

Castleford’s principal aim is to pick up a win tonight having suffered their first defeat of the season at unbeaten Wigan Warriors last week.

Niall Evalds lines up against Salford for Cas for the first time (Picture: SWPix.com)

In contrast, Salford secured their first Super League victory of the campaign last Friday, vanquishing Leigh Centurions 34-8 after comprehensive losses against Saints, Hull FC and Catalans Dragons.

In their first three league games under ex-Halifax coach Marshall, they scored an average of barely six points per match so they will have gained plenty of much-needed belief having swept aside Leigh in such style.

“Salford’s form has picked up a bit,” said Powell.

“They had a good win last week so they’ll be confident, but for us it’s just about playing well.

“We weren’t so good last week; we need to improve significantly on that, particularly defensively, so there’s some challenges for us.

“We know where Salford will come at us – I know where I would go – and our boys are ready for that.”

That said, Castleford have selection issues once more.

From the side that lost 22-12 at Wigan, they lose utility Jordan Turner (groin) and Tyla Hepi (two-game ban).

Forwards Jacques O’Neill, Alex Foster and Suaia Matagi remain sidelined for a few weeks yet and Dan Smith is out but Powell hopes he will be available for the Cup game along with former Salford prop George Griffin.

To bolster their cause, England Knights scrum-half Danny Richardson and ex-Salford full-back Gareth O’Brien are both in the 21-man squad tonight after injury while Jesse Sene-Lefao returns from a ban.

There are more milestones for the Wheldon Road club, too, with in-form prop Nathan Massey set to make his 250th Castleford appearance and second-row Oli Holmes in line for his 200th Super League game.

“Mas’ has been phenomenal this year,” said Powell.

“Through his career he has been fantastic for Castleford.

“He is a top-quality fella and as a player he has been tough.
“He has been one of our best front-rowers – if not our best – this season so far.

“Oli is our top three or four players this season.

“He has been outstanding and I am pleased for both players. We want to make it a good day for them.

“These milestones are important for us and we want to make sure the players enjoy them when they come around.”

Someone else who is looking forward to tonight is Niall Evalds, the full-back who makes his first return to Salford since switching clubs at the end of last season.

He played in the 2019 Grand 
Final with the Red Devils and also represented them at Wembley last term, scoring 101 tries in 
146 games during his Salford career.

Evalds, who has started in fine form for Castleford as he tries to earn a place in England’s World Cup squad, admitted: “I signed for Salford at 15.

“I pretty much grew up there. I loved my time there and have a lot of good memories and a lot of fun times.

“I’ve got some good friends in that team it will be strange going back there.

“I’m excited for it but I’m just focusing on the game.

“We’re just after another 
two points and a good performance.”

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