In 2017, Castleford Tigers were always in the media eye; a superb Super League season - in which the Tigers finished top by a record ten-point margin and reached their maiden Grand Final - had their long-suffering fans in dreamland until a bitterly disappointing Grand Final left a brilliant year almost in tatters.

Castleford hogged the limelight in 2017, receiving the plaudits of pundits and neutrals alike for their free-flowing rugby that often wowed audiences. Yet, this meant that the pressure was always on the Tigers to deliver when it mattered.

In 2018 however, the Tigers are creeping under the radar, chalking off wins without being spectacular which could work in Castleford's favour towards the business end of the year.

First round hammering

Many supporters from other Rugby League clubs were waiting with anticipation to see whether Castleford could repeat last year's heroics when the Tigers travelled to highly-rated St Helens in round one. A 46-6 drubbing at the hands of Saints was met with a barrage of mockery from other fans that began gleefully pointing the finger at the so-called "2017 bottlers". But, in many ways that horror show could pay dividends in the long run.

From that moment on, the Rugby League fraternity forgot about Castleford being potential title challengers and believed instead that, just like previous League Leaders Warrington in 2016, the Tigers were destined to struggle.

Slowly building

But, Daryl Powell is not the reigning Coach of the Year for nothing; he was quite rightly disgusted with the pathetic round one showing against St Helens and strived to ensure that such a result would never happen again. Since then, the Tigers have won seven out of eight - their only defeat coming against Warrington on a ground that wouldn't have looked out of place in a water park - and whilst they may not have been at their exciting 2017 best, the Tigers have improved drastically over the nine games they have played so far.

Castleford were still evidently nervous against Widnes, Hull FC and Salford in round two, three and four respectively. Then, with the attack seemingly clicking into gear, the Tigers trounced Leeds in the opening 20 minutes of their Elland Road clash only to narrowly see out the game 24-25. History repeated itself against Wakefield as Castleford held a 0-7 half-time lead only to finish 6-11 with the Tigers failing to score a second-half try once more.

In Castleford's round seven fixture, Warrington adapted to the swamp-like conditions down at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle better to inflict defeat upon Castleford for the first time in six games.

Struggling Huddersfield were the Tigers' next opponents and despite opening up a 6-30 lead early in the second-half, Castleford were hanging on with ten minutes left. The Tigers eventually saw the game out 28-40. Castleford's inability to close a game down in the second-half has been a serious problem, yet they are still recording victories - as all top sides do when they are not fully on their game.

Thrashing of Catalans

With bottom-side Catalans coming to the Jungle for what was the Tigers' ninth game in 2018, optimism was high amongst the Castleford fans that they could inflict a heavy defeat on the visitors.

Yet, even with the Dragons winning just two games this season, some supporters were also quick to point out that the team could not afford to drop off and would need to perform better in the second-half to take the points.

Though Catalans were, quite simply, atrocious, the Tigers finally put in a decent second-half performance - even if they rarely got out of first gear for most of the game. Castleford did however, fail to break the Dragons' line in the first forty and had to rely on three tries from kicks to open up an 18-0 lead. A Luke Gale drop-goal before half-time still showed that there was a confidence issue in the team - that instead of going on to hammer the visitors, the one-pointer may well have proved vital at the end.

Daryl Powell has spoken in recent weeks about the need to settle down in the second forty. Two tries in ten minutes after the break eased the anxiety amongst both players and fans alike. In the end, the Tigers cruised to a 41-0 victory. Despite it being the Dragons' heaviest defeat (margin-wise) and the Tigers' biggest win of the season so far, the result has attracted little attention. Yes, Catalans were perhaps expected to lose, but Castleford scored seven tries and kept their opponents scoreless - both of which are no mean feats.

Emulate Leeds in 2017

The fact that Castleford are slowly and quietly going about their business will benefit them towards the end of the season. Pressure and expectancy were very high in 2017 - something which the Tigers had rarely experienced before - now they have been written off after just round one.

Though performances have been scratchy, the Tigers have still been getting the all-important two points. And, they are now in the top four with Castleford still having three games in hand on third-placed Warrington.

In fact, Castleford are one of three sides to have lost just two games. Without breaking any pots and with improvement still needed, the Tigers are doing the business. And, without tempting fate, this is exactly what Leeds did in 2017 and look what happened then.