Castleford headed into the final game of Saturday's Magic Weekend on a two-match losing streak after defeats to Hull FC and St Helens - the latter in the Challenge Cup. The Tigers came up against a Leeds side that had won just two of their last five matches and that were without Carl Ablett, Brad Singleton, Anthony Mullaly and Mitch Garbutt. But, Castleford also had key men out: halfbacks Luke Gale and Ben Roberts were still sat on the sidelines as was 2017 top try-scorer Greg Eden. From the very kickoff Castleford were the better side and eventually took the Rhinos to the cleaners in what was perhaps the shock result of the day.

Written off

Castleford were written off by most people before a ball had even been kicked given their lacklustre form and the absence of both Gale and Roberts. A 18-36 defeat to St Helens in the Challenge Cup sixth round had convinced much of the Rugby League fraternity that the Magic Weekend fixture with Leeds would likely go the same way. But, the 3,500-strong Castleford faithful firmly believed that their team could wipe away the disappointment of the week before and grab yet another Super League victory over rivals Leeds.

Yet, even the most hardy of Castleford fans must have been fearing what was to come as the teams were announced. Captain Michael Shenton was once more given the fullback duties by head coach Daryl Powell - despite performing poorly in the defeat to Saints - whilst Jamie Ellis partnered Jake Trueman in the halves.

Backrower Alex Foster shifted to centre with Jy Hitchcox on his outside. The Tigers were down to the bare bones in the backline and the likes of Kallum Watkins and Joel Moon opposite must have been rubbing their hands.

Superb start

Castleford stunned Leeds in the opening quarter of the match - as they did against the Rhinos at Elland Road earlier in the season - and held a 12-0 lead by the 20th minute mark.

First, Hitchcox did brilliantly to pick up a Shenton pass around his toes and finished well in the corner. Then, youngster Trueman - who excelled on the big stage - slipped a neat pass to the onrushing Foster. A penalty by Jamie Ellis in the 35th minute extended Castleford's lead to 14-0 before Junior Moors crashed over with a minute to go until half-time.

A superb Ellis penalty goal on the halfway line as the hooter sounded meant the Tigers were up 22-0 at the break and in control of the game.

Holding onto a lead

But when the Tigers have held commanding leads in games this season - with the exception of a 41-0 drubbing of Catalans - they have let the opposition claw their way back into proceedings. There should have been no such fear this time as Shenton added another just after the break to stretch Castleford's lead to 28-0. A Mikolaj Oledzki try threatened a comeback on 56 minutes before Adam Milner effectively settled proceedings just after the hour mark after a neat ball by Liam Watts cut the Rhinos' defence open. Oliver Holmes added another on 66 minutes as Ellis missed his only conversion attempt of the day.

At 38-6, Castleford were purring and though Brett Ferres registered a consolation effort a minute before the end, it was the Tigers' day. It was an all-round team performance with every single player pulling their weight in attack and defence. But, special mention just has to go to Alex Foster. 16 months ago Foster faced the possibility of a Rugby League exit after Bradford's liquidation, yet the Tigers offered him a lifeline. Since then, the former Leeds academy product has grown into one of the most consistent players in the Castleford team and it was just desserts that he was awarded the Sky Man of the Match on Saturday night.

Halfback and fullback issue

Castleford have struggled this year for consistency in the halfback and fullback positions, but it appeared as though the Tigers had finally clicked on Saturday night.

Michael Shenton linked into the line tremendously well, whilst Jake Trueman - playing one of his best games in a Castleford shirt - and Jamie Ellis worked well together in the halves. The Tigers' attack caused Leeds no end of problems and the forward power of Jesse Sene-Lefao, Liam Watts, Adam Milner, Junior Moors and Grant Millington steamrolled their way past an injury-hit Rhinos pack.

The way forward

Castleford - dare I say it - looked almost like the Castleford of 2017 against Leeds. They were fast, difficult to put down and often brilliant at times with ball in hand. Defensively, the Tigers were sound too; on numerous occasions they held up a Leeds attacker over the line and let in just two tries and one of those was when the game was dead and buried.

The spirit and togetherness was there to see on the big stage and though Richie Myler went off with concussion and Kallum Watkins limped off, Castleford looked by far the settled side.

Was Castleford's demolition of Leeds an inkling of things to come from the 2017 League Leaders, or just simply a one-off? Either way, the Tigers tore Leeds apart and sent out a message to the rest of the league that Castleford are not done and dusted in 2018.