Castleford have had their ups and downs since the Super League era began in 1996… quite literally.
They have been relegated twice from the league but have since bounced back to maintain a comfortable and consistent mid table position.
However in the final season of the last millennium, Castleford did the unthinkable and came from within 80 minutes of Old Trafford shocking two well established clubs.
Having finished in the fifth and final play off spot after the 1999 regular season, the extra match looked to be a case of seeing out the inevitable before the Tigers could go on holiday. But Stuart Raper had other ideas.
To really put the Tigers up against the wall, their first Super League play off game would be held at the brand new JJB Stadium against Wigan. The Warriors had just moved out of Central Park, and were expected to be welcomed into their new home with a guaranteed win that would progress them into the next round.
But it would be the first time Wigan finished a season without any silverware since 1984, as Castleford won 14-10. But Stuart Raper’s side hadn’t finished prowling yet.
Raper led his side to Headingley, where Brad Godden, Marc Glanville and coach Graham Murray were set to make their Leeds farewells.
The Tigers certainly didn’t mind ruining the occasion for the departing trio as Dean Sampson, and eventual Man of Steel winner Adrian Vowels, all ensured Castleford raced to a 14-2 lead by half time. Aaron Raper sealed the man of the match award due to his efforts in the early minutes of the game.
But the previous year’s Grand Finalists had got to Old Trafford for a reason, and fought their way back into the game.
Two Iestyn Harris penalties launched the Leeds scoring, and eventually Francis Cummings got the Rhinos first try.
Less than five minutes later Cummings scored another, and it looked like the Tigers had been sent to sleep as Harris levelled the scores with his second conversion.
Danny Orr’s earlier penalties for the Tigers meant the scores were tied at 16-all going into the last ten minutes.
Orr had a chance to put Castleford back in the lead, but his penalty drifted wide, however Raper shortly landed a crucial drop goal.
But there was still seven minutes left to play, however the Castleford defence was on form preventing Leeds from exiting their own half.
The pressure finally took its toll on the Rhinos with four minutes left. Keith Senior dropped an easy pass which gave Darren Rogers the chance to take advantage. He raced away only to be tracked down by a chasing Leeds defence.
But Dale Fritz was in support, and after Rogers was allowed to play the ball quickly, Fritz crossed for the Tigers to send them to the Final Eliminator play off.
After the jubilations of the previous two weeks, Castleford came back down to earth with a bump.
They were to face St Helens at Knowsley Road, and Saints showed the Tigers what it takes to become a champion side. They defeated Castleford 36-6 before going onto face league leaders Bradford in a thrilling 8-6 Grand Final, which Saints won.