FOR all everyone is talking about Castleford Tigers’ truly brilliant playing style, long-serving prop Andy Lynch maintains it should be no surprise given it has been four years in the making.
The West Yorkshire club produced an utterly dazzling display to humiliate Leeds Rhinos 66-10 on Thursday night, maintaining their 100 per cent winning start to the new Super League season.
Fast on the back of a thrilling win at Warrington Wolves, the sheer quality of their attacking play was further evidence why Daryl Powell’s table-topping side are hotly tipped to win a first-ever championship title this term.
But for Lynch, now ensconced in his second spell at Wheldon Road having initially debuted with Tigers in 1999, it is no shock.
“It is great at the moment,” said the ball-handling front-row, one of many who thrives on the side’s willingness to dare.
“But it’s not just this season; probably for the last three years with the players Powelly has brought in, he’s tried to build year on year to get better and better.
“With the coaching philosophies of him, Ryan Sheridan and Danny Orr, and those players coming in buying into what they are preaching, there is a real belief here.
“It’s been there a while but now we’re getting rid of all the doubts, too. People talk about us as title contenders but we’ve won nothing yet; we’re only three games in.
“It’s a great start, though, and we are loving it.”
Wingers Greg Eden and Greg Minikin each scored hat-tricks against Leeds with on-loan Rhinos full-back Zak Hardaker shining and Luke Gale, once more, pulling the strings at scrum-half.
It was the verve and finesse of Castleford’s play that was most eye-catching, a freedom to try anything and, more often than not, see it come off in front of an ecstatic 11,500 sell-out crowd.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Lynch admitted: “We’ve always played that attacking brand of rugby but, looking at some of those tries the other night, the individual skill was just unbelievable at times.
“It was great to see. Yet the big thing for us the last couple of seasons, and more so than ever now, is we need a big defensive focus.
“We know we can score points but, on the flip-side, to get in the top-four and challenge those sides we have to get our defence right. It’s about having the right attitude and belief in your team-mates. We’re looking to improve that; we’re not happy with what we’ve done yet.”
So, there’s more to come. But what about living up to that Classy Cas image – such stunning sequences, offloading and cutting passes rolling back the years to Hardisty, Hepworth et al?
Lynch, 37, said: “In all honesty, that’s why going away to Lanzarote in pre-season made a massive difference; getting on dry surfaces and in the sun, doing things over and over again.
“It’s not just off-the-cuff what you saw on Thursday; these are things Powelly, Shez and Danny have thought about and worked out how to use in games. They then give us the belief to do it.”
The former Hull FC forward, meanwhile, has high praise for Gale, the 28-year-old who led the side admirably last season when captain Michael Shenton and so many more, including Lynch, were injured for long periods.
He was at the heart of Castleford’s win over Leeds, dovetailing perfectly with Paul McShane, who was excellent as a makeshift half after Powell dropped Rangi Chase for disciplinary reasons.
“With so many senior players out last year, Galey had to step up,” said Lynch.
“He probably wasn’t classed as a real leader – everyone thought he was a real number seven – but over those five or six months he took control of this team.
“It brought the best out of him, he got picked for England and came back a different player again. Obviously, it’s not all about Galey. People talk about us losing Denny Solomona’s 42 tries now he’s gone to Sale but, as a pro’ player, you have to adapt; that’s just created an opportunity for Greg Minikin while we’d already signed Greg Eden and then there’s Joel Monaghan, too.
“But we’re not getting carried away. Before Leeds, all we worried about was them. Now all we’re worried about is Widnes next Sunday.”
And all Castleford fans are worried about is making sure they get a ticket for the next festival of rugby league.