Castleford’s 23-12 win at Leeds Rhinos was a sign of intent. They are now seven points clear of Hull, who climbed to second in the table following their 40-18 home win over Wakefield Trinity last week.
Hull have inflicted two of Castleford’s four defeats in all competitions this year, including knocking them out of the Challenge Cup recently and they visit Wheldon Road on Friday night.
If Castleford can maintain their 100 per cent home record they will have one hand on the shield, even with 10 games still to play.
Despite that, coach Daryl Powell wants his team to keep feeling insecure.
He insisted: “You don’t want to start to feel comfortable because that’s when your effort and your performances start to dip.
“We just need to keep going. Obviously, we are delighted we are in such a good position at this stage in the season, but it doesn’t matter.
“Nothing matters unless you keep doing it and you come up with something at the end of the year.
“The Challenge Cup for us is gone; we didn’t want it to be, but it is and that really focuses us on one thing.”
Powell felt the win at Leeds, in wet conditions, answered some of their critics.
Tigers trailed early on, but hit back to lead by two points at half-time and took the game away from the hosts with two quick-fire tries soon after the interval.
They were beaten away to Salford in the rain earlier in the campaign, when questions were raised over their ability to handle difficult conditions and Powell reflected: “We exorcised those demons.
“We stopped at a hotel for an hour as we normally do in preparation and we spoke about the conditions and us having to adapt. The conditions were a challenge for us. We didn’t handle the hot conditions well against Hull, but we did on Friday.
“They are all lessons we are learning and I think we got rid of a few doubts about us as a team, which I am pleased with.
“We scored some smart tries, but not our usual ones and, again, that shows it’s a team that’s got a fair bit going for it.”
Leeds coach Brian McDermott had spoken before the game of “going into battle” against Castleford.
Powell admitted those remarks were noted in the visitors’ camp.
“We were always going to be motivated,” he said.
“But you recognise what you are going to be coming into.
“We wanted to go there and prove that we are good enough to go into those types of situations and come out the other side.
“I think we did that really well. You have to be fired up to play rugby league.
“It is a tough sport and I could see what Brian was trying to do.
“He wanted them to get after us and I thought they did that, particularly in the second half.
“They really came after us and we had to dig our way out of some really tough situations.”
Leeds have slipped a place to fourth, though with Hull and third-placed Salford still to play they could go into the Super-8s in second spot.
McDermott took positives from his team’s effort, heart and defensive display, but conceded they made too many mistakes.
“We lost the ball, made unforced errors,” he said.
“We didn’t keep hold of the ball, in a ridiculous fashion – not just by a small margin.
“But there was some real character there. To play a team like Cas and give them so much ball and to continue to defend against a team that can attack, it gives you a bit of a sniff; it gets you excited.
“I don’t think we will be as poor as that again this year with the ball.”