ASIDE from the usual tale around ‘will this be the time Castleford Tigers finally win at St Helens’ there is also a second narrative emerging from the West Yorkshire club ahead of tonight’s contest on Merseyside.
It centres on a growing belief that – despite being down in sixth with three games remaining – Castleford Tigers could still yet go on and win a first league title.
In the first instance, it is 27 years since Castleford last won at Saints – a success in the now long-defunct Regal Trophy in 1992.
You have to go back a further two years since Castleford last won there in the league but – as the runaway leaders nurse the hurt from Saturday’s surprise Challenge Cup final defeat to Warrington Wolves – perhaps this is a good time to at last remedy that.
If Daryl Powell’s side can do so, they greatly enhance their chances of making the play-offs – just two points separated them in sixth and Warrington in second following the last round.
Their final two games are at home to fellow title-chasers Hull FC and Wigan Warriors meaning they will certainly be battle-hardened if they do qualify.
Tigers half-back Jamie Ellis – who started his career at hometown Saints – conceded: “It is like play-off rugby for us now.
“These are the games you want to be playing in. In our last two games we haven’t conceded a try so defence is the main thing we are doing well.
“We could maybe have put a few more points on Huddersfield (who Tigers beat 24-0) and been a bit more clinical, but we have been working on that this week in training.
“You have to be clinical, especially against St Helens and take your chances.
“It is going to be tough, but anything can happen and you never know, we could sneak into a Grand Final. With Warrington winning (at Wembley), anything can happen on the day. We just have to turn up and play well.”
Castleford have won four of their last five games and should really have beaten Hull KR, too, in the one that got away.
Saints, who opened up a 16-point lead at the top after their last victory, have named the vast majority of their Wembley squad.
Ellis, 29, conceded: “They have been the benchmark this year.
“The whole squad has done really well for them.
“They are going to be fighting and wanting a bit of a reaction (after Wembley) but we are looking forward to it. That is going to be better for us down the line, playing their best team and really going for it.
“From second to sixth there’s nothing in it. You never know what can happen – we could get into that final and win it.”
Castleford, of course, reached Old Trafford two years ago having romped to the League Leaders’ Shield themselves only to falter when it mattered most against Leeds Rhinos.
They will hope to come in as the outsider this time around and any sort of success tonight would give them a timely boost.
Ellis, meanwhile, plays his third game back after a pre-season knee injury.