Could Castleford and Widnes be this year’s surprise packages?
With the 2014 Super League season now well underway, 4 teams have made a better start than most and still remain unbeaten. Whilst St Helens’ and Leeds’ impressive starts may be expected, few would have predicted that Castleford Tigers and Widnes Vikings would still have their 100% records intact. With the return of relegation to Super League this season, both teams were favourites to be fighting for survival, but perhaps their surprisingly successful start is a sign that they will both be the league’s surprise packages this year.
Castleford’s nail-biting 36-31 victory against last year’s champions, Wigan, was the Tiger’s 4th win in 4 games, but is the one that will have pleased Head Coach, Daryl Powell, the most. A late Matty Smith drop goal looked to have given Wigan the points, but a last gasp try from new signing, Luke Dorn, saw the victory swing Castleford’s way.
After an opening day 36-18 victory against Bradford away at Odsal, a 32-6 home victory over struggling Catalan Dragons and last week’s 30-10 away win at Hull KR, the Tigers now lie second in the table behind St Helens, who have a superior points difference. It’s certainly an improvement on last year’s campaign, which took them 16 games to register 4 victories. The Tigers eventually finished 12th on 20 points, and is something which they’re well on their way to bettering this season. The loss of their key playmaker Rangi Chase to Salford raised questions about the team before the season got underway, but new signing Luke Dorn has helped provide the experience and organisation to a new Tigers outfit.
Similarly, Widnes Vikings have raised eyebrows thus far with 3 wins from their opening 3 games, and the Vikings have now won their last 6 games stretching back to the end of last season. Last Thursday’s 32-18 win over the Salford Red Devils was an example of just how far the team have come since their reintroduction to the Super League in 2012. Their fitness and energy levels were incredible, constantly wearing Salford down and making big yards up the pitch when in possession. The Viking’s creativity with the ball has also vastly improved, and they dominated the Red Devils and always looked dangerous with the ball in hand.
As well as an emphatic 64-10 opening day win over the London Broncos, last week’s epic 22-20 victory over Huddersfield received many plaudits from the rugby league community, with Head Coach Denis Betts in particular receiving praise for the work he’s done in building the team. A first ever play-off spot in the Super League era is now a priority for Widnes. All 3 of Widnes’ games so far have come at home, however, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can continue their impressive form away from home, beginning on Friday night away to Leeds: another unbeaten team so far.
As for Castleford, can they repeat the heroics of Sunday’s win over Wigan, as they take on Hull FC at the jungle on Sunday? There will be slip ups for both teams throughout the campaign, but after a surprisingly convincing start, a top 8 finish is on the cards for both.