FINISHING TOP of First Utility Super League would be a “massive” achievement for Castleford Tigers, prop Andy Lynch says.
Tigers will claim the league leaders’ shield if St Helens lose at Huddersfield on Friday night and Tigers win against Catalan Dragons in Perpignan the following evening. Cas finished 12th last year and Lynch is aware they are on the verge of creating history.
“It would be massive, I don’t think words could explain it,” Lynch said. “I don’t think it has ever been done by any Cas team before so to do it would be a massive achievement and there’d be some history there as well. But we can’t worry too much about that. We have just got to go there and get our performance right. Going into the play-offs the week after, it’s massively important we play well.”
Lynch described the prospect of facing Catalan with the league leaders’ shield up for grabs as “exciting”, but admitted they need to play better than in the 26-22 home win over Wakefield two days a go. Lynch said: “It is out of our hands I suppose, because it all depends on the result on Friday night. We got the two points on Sunday, but we made it hard for ourselves. The first 30 minutes were great, but the second half was pretty poor so we have got a lot of work to do this week. We know it is going to be a tough ask at Catalan, but we are looking forward to it. We’ll get a few days away and it’s going to be great.”
Lynch reckons the back-to-back home wins over Bradford Bulls and Wakefield have been good practice for a game in the south of France.
“Conditions were pretty warm,” he pointed out. “It will be warm over there and we’ve had two games to get used to it.
“We are acclimatised a little bit, but it is always tough in Perpignan. It is a great atmosphere over there and I think there’s plenty of Cas fans making the trip.
“We are just going to concentrate on our performance and worry about playing for 80 minutes and not just the first 30.
“We need to win going into the play-offs, to give us a bit of momentum.”
Tigers will be battle-hardened after tough recent matches.
They were given a fright by a Bradford comeback the week after the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final loss to Leeds Rhinos and then Wakefield rallied from 22-0 down two days ago, putting Cas under huge pressure in a frantic second half.
“In the first half I thought we were great,” Lynch said of the derby victory. But in the second half we made a lot of errors and we had to do a lot of defending. We are going to have to do a lot of defending in the play-offs and we are going to have to get our kick-chase right.
“That will be a massive thing in the play-offs. Teams win games on how they chase their kicks. We have got to keep improving and put a lot of stuff right from the game against Wakey, but we probably could not have asked for a better game than Catalan away going into the play-offs.
”They are a big, tough physical team and we know they are going to test us, so we need to be playing knock-out football from now.
“We have got to win all our games now, but we have got to do better than we did (on Sunday). Thirty minutes of good rugby is not good enough – in these play-offs you have got to play for 80 minutes.”
Preparing for a huge, make-or-break game is nothing new for Tigers, who were building up to their first Challenge Cup final of the summer era just three weeks ago.
“I think that will probably help us,” Lynch said.
“We have had a taste of it now and we just want more.
“I think it’s good that we’ve all been there, done that. We have experienced the atmosphere and the build-up and that’s what the finals are going to be all about. But in the play-offs it’s not just one week, every week is going to be like a final. It is a great time for the club and the town. Cas is buzzing at the moment and we’ve got to make the most of it. If we can do well, keep playing well and winning games, it makes people feel better. It is nice to see all the fans being happy for a change, compared to where they were this time last year. All year people have been waiting for the wheels to drop off, but they haven’t done and we are nearly at the end of the season and we could potentially be league leaders. It is a great opportunity and one we have got to take with both hands.”
When Lynch rejoined Tigers from Hull in the off season he believed he was moving to a club on the up. But he admitted: “We are probably three or four years in front of where I thought we would be, building-wise. It is great for the club. Daryl Powell (Tigers coach) and Danny Orr (his assistant) have done a great job and credit goes to (chairman)] Jack Fulton and the directors for what they’ve done off the field. Everybody’s working together, right from the top all the way down to the bottom where we are. Eveything’s happy at the moment and hopefully we can keep building and there’ll be some more exciting times for us.”
Meanwhile, fellow prop Craig Huby’s move to Huddersfield on a long-term deal was expected to be confirmed today.
Tigers are believed to be interested in signing Salford Red Devils’ transfer-listed forward Gareth Hock.