Their top four bid may be over, but Castleford Tigers players will not be “putting the cue in the rack” just yet according to head coach Daryl Powell.
The Tigers boss is eyeing a rare second Headingley victory in the same season for his team and reckons all the pressure is on opponents Leeds Rhinos in tonight’s penultimate Super Eights game.
After drawing and winning on their last two visits to Headingley, Powell reckons his team will not lack confidence and although Cas have lost their last three games the Rhinos have also lost their last two matches since lifting the Challenge Cup.
Powell believes his side can add to Leeds’ cup final hangover and is pleased he has not seen any easing up in training ahead of the local derby.
He said: “We are capable of winning for a second time at Headingley this year.
“When you look at Leeds they’ve got rattled a little bit after they won the Challenge Cup. They were awesome in winning that so it will be tough, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t win again at Headingley.
“Our last two visits to Headingley have been a victory and a draw in pretty high scorers.
“The players are confident, we’ve had a look at Leeds and know their strengths and weaknesses. It’s about making sure you come up with the right game on the day and have a right pop at it.
“They will have a bit of pressure on them. I’ve coached there and I know what it’s like at Headingley. It can add its own pressure, especially if you are a little bit off and get rattled by the opposition. That can create its own hostility.
“There’s absolutely no pressure on us, I think it’s probably the perfect game. If we lose everybody expects us to, if we win then it’s fantastic for us.
“I think the players effort wise are ready to go. Game plan wise I think we’re playing well with the ball and are challenging everybody we play against. But we have to defend better. You have to defend well at Leeds otherwise you are going to be on the end of a heavy scoreline.”
Powell reckons there is still plenty for the players to play for this season.
He said: “I’m really disappointed with our last three games. We haven’t quite been able to quite get the job done. We’ve scored enough points, but the defence has been too leaky and we need to put that right.
“The players that are here have got a fair bit of pride about them. There’s still a lot to play for.
“We’ve got a good opportunity to finish fifth and it’s important we continue to play well and don’t put the cue on the rack.
“It’s crucial that we maintain our standards and I’m confident that will happen.
“I’ve watched the boys training, we had a good meeting on Saturday morning and spoke about the next two games and what we need to do to get ourselves into the place we want to be.
“The boys have been awesome in training.”
Powell will be selecting his strongest possible side for tonight’s game, resisting the temptation to give any youngsters a chance, other than Will Maher, who was a sub against St Helens last week.
He added: ”I don’t expect there to be too many changes.
“Will Maher played last week and he will be out there again, but I won’t go with any more of the younger guys for the Leeds game. Potentially against Wigan I might give a couple a go.
“There’s prize money aligned to finishing fifth and I want to finish fifth for the club’s benefit and I don’t like finishing a place lower than we should do so I want the strongest possible team out there. It’s an important game.
“We’ve lost our last three games and I don’t want to go into next season on the back of five losses. I think losing’s overrated so I don’t believe in that too much.
“The next two games are going to be key in flipping our attitude a little, which is going to be important moving forward into next year.”
Powell reckons there are some good young players coming through from the under 19s and spoke about two in particular who have impressed him and could be in the running to be given a go in the final game of the season against Wigan.
Powell added: “Ash Robson when he played two games for the first team was excellent. He was not too far away from playing on another couple of occasions.
“He’s dropped off a little bit towards the back end, but he’s had a tough situation to deal with, with his mum passing away, so that’s to be expected.
“At such a young age it was tough for him.
“Tom Holmes has had a fantastic season and I can see him playing a big part in our future.
“He’s a player I’m hoping to be able to give an opportunity to probably in the Wigan game.
“He’s played both scrum-half and hooker in amateur football so he can play in both positions. He looks a good half-back, he’s pretty quick, has a great left foot step, is prepared to take the line on and is pretty tough and a good defender.
“He’s got a good chance of playing first team football on a consistent basis in the future.”