CASTLEFORD TIGERS will be out to make “a statement” in tonight’s derby at Leeds Rhinos.
Victory would lift Cas, who are currently fifth, into top spot in First Utility Super League with just six games remaining.
And more importantly, boss Daryl Powell feels it would prove they are capable of beating a leading team at a meaningful stage of the season.
“It is a big game for us to justify what we are about as a team,” said Powell. “Leeds are pretty strong and they have got everybody back by the looks, so it is certainly going to be a tough challenge for us.
“It is a bit of a statement game, to show we can hack it at this time of year. It is pretty significant for us.”
Leeds won 22-14 at MAH Jungle in May, but have lost four of their last eight league fixtures. Powell, though, insisted: “They have had a lot of injuries.
“I think that’s been significant for them and you can’t really judge them compared to the start of the season, when they had everybody available and they were on a roll.
“Every team has had a dip at some point and that’s just the nature of professional sport and human nature as well.
“We aren’t reading too much into that, it is going to take our best effort to win the game and that’s what we need to come up with.”
Leeds were boosted last week by Rob Burrow’s return from injury and Powell, who gave the No 7 his first Leeds start, in 2001, sees the half-back/hooker as someone Tigers will need to keep in check.
“He’s a top-class player,” said the Cas boss, who coached Leeds from 2001-2003. “He is very quick and he gives them an extra dimension.
“He skirts the line, his footwork and speed are exceptional and he is difficult to grab hold of. I have got a lot of respect for him as a player and a man and he is somebody we have certainly got to manage very well.”
Tigers, who are a point behind Leeds, are close to full strength, but Powell is looking for a step up in standard from recent weeks.
“We’ve got to get our performance right, that’s what we are concentrating on,” he stressed.
“I just want us to play well – and we have to play well to get a result.
“We are having purple patches in games when we are very difficult to contain, but we are not consistent.
“If we get some consistency in the way we play I will be pretty happy.
“At the moment we are having periods of play when we are absolutely outstanding, then we tend to lose our way a bit.
“We are trying to get our levels back to where we have got a bit more consistency across the 80 minutes.”
Meanwhile, prop Lee Jewitt who joined Tigers from French side Limoux mid-way through the season, has signed a new contract keeping him at the club until the end of 2016.