THERE WILL be points to prove all over the Emerald Headingley pitch tomorrow and Castleford Tigers winger James Clare, in particular, wants to set the record straight.
Clare had a tough time when Tigers were beaten 21-20 in golden-point extra-time at Leeds just seven weeks ago and the 28-year-old Cas man admitted what happened that night still hurts.
“Our right-edge had a bit of stick at the start of the year and when we last played Leeds we weren’t the best,” Clare recalled.
“We need to get back out there and prove a point.”
Clare was on the left, his preferred side, last week when he played outside former Melbourne Storm centre Chayse Blair in Tigers’ 28-12 Coral Challenge Cup defeat at Hull.
Chayse is set to make his third appearance for Cas tomorrow and Clare reckons Tigers are on to a winner.
He said: “Chayse is really good, he’s a really laid-back character, but he’s that much of a threat with the ball when he carries it you are getting three or four men around him to try and deal with his size.
“He’s a really good player and I think he’s just going to get better and better for us as time goes on.”
Both teams are on the back of a Cup disappointment, Leeds having been embarrassed 24-22 at Championship outfit Bradford Bulls – one of Clare’s former clubs – last Saturday.
With Tigers on a four-match losing run, the derby has even more riding on it than usual, but Clare is confident a win could begin a charge back up the Betfred Super League table.
“It is unheard of,” he said of Tigers’ recent sequence of results. “Cas have been one of the most consistent teams for a number of years now, but it’s a new challenge and if it doesn’t challenge you it’s never going to change you.
“In a way, it’s a good thing it’s happening now and not towards the end of the year. Nobody remembers how you start a season or how you are in the middle.
“It’s how you finish, so hopefully we will use this as a bit of a turning point and then kick on for a good back half of the year leading into the play-offs.”
He added: “We need a massive response and it [tomorrow’s game] is as big as they come. As much as you don’t want to look at the past, there’s still that disappointment from the golden-point drop goal, but we just need to focus on what we’re good at and what we’re hopefully going to do.
“Leeds are a good team at times and they put other teams under pressure. They have got some amazing individuals, but we just need to deal with those and focus on what we’re good at.
“I think you can expect a massive response from both teams.”
Tomorrow’s game marks the completion of Headingley’s £45m redevelopment and that will inspire Tigers as much as Rhinos, Clare believes.
He said: “They are always special games. I love playing against Leeds and their new stadium is phenomenal – you feel like you’re in a different country or on a different planet when you’re having a look around it.
“It’s a really special place to be. I think the best thing about it is the amount of fans that turn up in force.
“You always get extra Leeds fans there and some extra Cas fans turn up because it is a derby game and it makes it a special atmosphere.”