IT is not often a side can bring the Super League leaders to their knees two weeks running, but that is the prospect awaiting Castleford Tigers this evening.
Having won 31-24 at Leeds Rhinos last Thursday, they now host St Helens, the team that subsequently usurped their West Yorkshire rivals at the top, in another enticing televised game.
The fact this one is at Wheldon Road, their rickety old home that creates such an electric atmosphere, only heightens the expectation that Daryl Powell’s side could produce a notable double.
History says otherwise – Castleford have lost 15 successive matches against Saints since 2008 and it was as far back as 1990 the last time they succeeded in the away league fixture – but the head coach has never paid much attention to such things.
“I can’t remember when we last beat them, but it was a while since we beat Leeds at Headingley,” he said – five years in fact.
“We were pretty unlucky against Saints last year, as we were against Leeds, but none of that really matters; it’s about what happens now.
“For us, we need to perform well individually. We’ve got a lot of players who are getting a bit of a groove about the way that they play and if we can put all that together as a team then we can really challenge St Helens.”
Indeed, Castleford are seeking a fourth successive win after a bitty start to the year.
Their hopes are bolstered by the return to fitness of their main strike player, Justin Carney, the robust Australian winger who endured a painful dislocated elbow against Hull KR 10 weeks ago.
Matt Cook, the experienced second-row also in good form before being injured on Easter Monday, is back in the 19-man squad, too, providing Powell with an unusual selection issue.
“A couple of games ago we only had 19 players so this is great,” he admitted.
“Since Justin’s been out, the guys have stepped in and done a good job. Denny Solomona’s just come back into the team and he’s scoring tries at the moment. Ash Gibson’s done a really good job and they’ve both played pretty well, as has James Clare when he’s been out there.
“We’ve managed a pretty tough situation but I keep saying Justin’s one of our elite players and he was playing outstandingly well before he got that injury.
“It’s been a fair while him out of the squad and he’s a nightmare when he’s injured so it will just be great to have him back.
“He’s a high quality player and, hopefully, he can kick off from where he finished.”
Champions Saints claimed pole position following a typically epic battle with their own derby rivals, Wigan Warriors, on Friday – such was its ferocity, the extra day’s rest could benefit Castleford – and they are keen to cement that by prospering at The Jungle.
Saints defeated Castleford 21-14 in February, although many would suggest the visitors beat themselves with a couple of catastrophic errors including one, ironically, from Carney.
Powell – whose side can move up to fourth with a win – recalled: “We had a tough start and I thought we were pretty unlucky to lose the first three games, including that one at St Helens.
“But we’ve stabilised a fair bit since and look a good side at the moment. Obviously, this is a significant challenge, like last week.
“Both teams are on the back of big wins so it should be a great game and they have probably got Luke Walsh back, who’s a smart player, but it would be real good if we can knock off the leaders for the second week running.
“We’ve a bit of consistency now, won our last three and got quite a few players who are playing close to the top of their game.
“We’re in a different place, but I still don’t think we’re at our best; there’s lots to come from us and, hopefully, it will show Thursday.”