Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell understands why St Helens handled finishing top “differently” to his own side 12 months ago but he does not know if that will help them finish off the job of winning the Super League title.
The West Yorkshire club head to Saints for their final Super 8s game on Friday night with the following week’s semi-finals already very much in the thoughts of both.
Justin Holbrook’s stellar side, with the likes of Ben Barba, Jonny Lomax and James Roby to the fore, have stood out from the off this term and are six points ahead of second-placed Wigan Warriors heading into the final round.
They lifted the League Leaders’ Shield after beating Hull FC almost a fortnight ago but there was muted celebrations and little fanfare from the Merseyside club who have won five Grand finals during the summer era.
It was in marked contrast to Castleford who, having finished top for the first time in their history last year and by a record 10 points, rightly lapped up that feat at Wheldon Road.
They, of course, did then falter, beating Saints in golden point extra-time during the semi-final only to lose out to Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford at the last hurdle.
Powell’s team aim to get back there - they visit Wigan on Friday week while Saints host Warrington Wolves in their semi-final next Thursday.
But does he feel there will now be extra pressure on Saints having eased to No1 spot in similar style and knowing what then happened to the Tigers from that position last term?
“I don’t know,” insisted Powell.
“They handled the League Leaders’ presentation a little bit differently than what we did.
“I thought it was a fair achievement (last year) and we wanted to celebrate it.
“They’ve gone about it a bit differently so you can see they are focused - as we were - on winning the Grand Final.
“But whether they can do that or not, there’s a couple of really tough games for them to get through.
“They do have a good side. And they don’t have many injuries and have been pretty consistent all year.
“They have (Dominique) Peyroux back now and I’m presuming they’ll have Roby and (Louie) McCarthy-Scarsbrook to go back into that and Kyle Amor who didn’t play last week so they’ll be strong.
“We know it’ll be a tough game but we’re looking forward to it and want to make sure our combinations are really strong for the following week.”
Saints won 34-14 at Warrington on Saturday in a dress rehearsal for their semi-final but first they have the visit of Castleford who could yet meet them again in the Grand Final on October 13.
Friday’s game should see two frontrunners for Super League’s Young Player of the Year - and England’s potential long-term half-back partnership - go head to head in Saints’ Danny Richardson and Castleford’s Jacob Trueman.
Powell said: “He (Richardson) is playing with a lot of confidence isn’t he?
“His kicking game’s great, his goal kicking is really good and he’s working well in combination with a really consistent team.
“Saints have been able to pretty much pick the same team all year if they've wanted to. That consistency really helps.
“Truey’s had to fit in and around all sorts of injuries with us and he’s done remarkably well.”
Meanwhile, Powell has praised the impact of dynamic full-back Peter Mata'utia, the recent recruit from Leigh Centurions, who has fitted in seamlessly to his side, just as Liam Watts did when the hard-running prop joined from Hull FC in March.
“People are asking me about recruitment for next year,” he said.
“But we’ve sort of done that as we’ve gone through this season.
“Peter has been outstanding. Wattsy’s been consistent and excellent as well. “We’ve had a couple of really good signings and additions as we’ve gone through the year.”