After four months out with a fractured patella (kneecap), Luke Gale took to the field on Saturday night aiming to steer Castleford to victory against Challenge Cup winners Catalans Dragons. Gale's last game was at home against Wakefield in late April where he suffered a crack in his kneecap following a collision with Pauli Pauli - arguably one of the biggest players in Super League. Since then, the halfback has undergone a period of rehabilitation to get back on the field. And, it was a welcome sight that he not only started Saturday night's game but finished it without a setback.

Different halfback combination

In the four months that Gale has been out of the Castleford side, the Tigers have won eight out of 15 matches and have been consistently inconsistent. Youngster Jake Trueman and Jamie Ellis took over the halfback roles - Samoan international Ben Roberts also succumbed to injury a week before Gale - but both Trueman and Ellis have looked lost at times without general Gale to take games by the scruff of the neck.

His return in time for Castleford's top four assault could not have been more timely; fresh from a two-week break following the Challenge Cup Final, the Tigers knew a win over the French side would all-but clinch a semi-final play-off spot after Huddersfield lost to Wakefield on Friday night.

Easy transition

Before the game Castleford fans were holding their breath; would Gale fit back into the side easily? Would he be fit enough to last the full 80 minutes? Yes and yes; the halfback looked like he'd never been away - well that's untrue, his hair transplant had finally given him a fringe. His decision-making was superb, setting up two of the Tigers' first-half tries with well-timed passes and having a hand in the three efforts after the break.

It was no surprise that last season's top try-scorer Greg Eden claimed a hat-trick on Saturday night with Gale pulling strings on the left edge that gained Castleford, so many admirers in 2017. His link-up play with fullback Peter Mata'utia was seamless and Michael Shenton - who scored once and assisted two of Eden's tries - also looked more confident in attack.

Yes, the Dragons were perhaps unlikely to win this fixture following their Challenge Cup-winning exploits the week before, but Castleford never gave them a look in. The French side had five repeat sets on the Castleford line in the first half, only to be repelled by the brutish defence, while the Tigers attack caused the visitors an endless amount of problems.

Signs of 2017

Castleford looked fluid in attack, competent in defence and enthusiastic and passionate overall; unsurprisingly then, some Castleford fans have drawn mirror images from this performance to their performances in 2017. In fact, Castleford's last try had the Tigers faithful purring.

Catalans' kick-off was caught by Greg Eden who dashed along with his 20-meter line and passed to Grant Millington.

The powerful forward bounced off one defender and offloaded to Mike McMeeken - who, undoubtedly, had his best game in a Castleford shirt for a while. The second-rower timed his pass to Gale perfectly who, in turn, fed Oliver Holmes for one of the tries of the season.

It's quite bizarre how one man can have such a big influence on a team; not only is Gale the best halfback at the club, he improves those around him. McMeeken, Millington, Shenton, Eden and Junior Moors had possibly their best games of the season, while halfback partner Jake Trueman looked far more confident and comfortable with Gale taking charge. With four games to go until the playoffs, Gale has brought back the buzz amongst fans and players alike; is it time for the Tigers to right the wrongs of 2017?