COACH Terry Matterson believes Castleford Tigers will benefit from fast conditions when they play Catalan Dragons in the South of France this weekend.
The Tigers will aim to stay on course for a play-off spot when they take on the Dragons at Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan, on Saturday evening.
Castleford mastered wet conditions to achieve an important 15-8 win at Salford last Friday but Matterson says his team are better suited to dry pitches.
“We are not a big side so we prefer drier grounds and I think the conditions will help us in France,” he said.
“We felt a bit hampered at Salford last week. I thought we played the conditions really well but we like to play with a bit more width. We have some guys with really good feet who can get in between people so we prefer the grounds dry.
“It’s going to be 28 degrees in Perpignan on Saturday but we do not kick off until 8.40 in the evening so I don’t think the heat will be an issue for us.”
Castleford have won their last four matches against Catalan and they have won on their last two visits to France.
They are seeking a league double this season over the Dragons, who lost 34-24 at Probiz Coliseum in March, despite an outstanding display by their Australian half-back Scott Dureau who scored two tries.
The French team have improved greatly since then and are now in sixth place in the table, one point ahead of the Tigers.
Matterson said: “We know it’s not going to be easy but we enjoy playing there and we’ve got a pretty good record against them.
“Catalan are doing really well and it’s a real challenge for us. On the back of two good results for us, we feel this one is probably our biggest test.
“It will be good to get over there and get a bit of sun on our backs. Hopefully, the ground will be nice and fast. We prefer it that way and we can play a bit more rugby than we did last week.
“Catalan have a lot of good players and they look like they are playing for each other as well. Obviously, having a French speaking coach has helped a great deal and they are getting a lot more out of the French players.
“Scott Dureau has been good for them all year. I’d say that next to Rangi Chase he is one of the most influential people in the competition this season so we’ve really got to keep an eye on him because he’s a real key to everything they do.”
The Tigers will be without three-quarter Nick Youngquest for Saturday’s game. He is set to be replaced by Richard Owen who missed the Salford match with a hamstring injury.
Matterson says Youngquest “got knocked about a bit” when he made his comeback at Salford after a two-month lay-off with a knee injury.
“Nick won’t be right for this weekend. He’s got a little tear in his calf and he got about four corks in his legs,” said the Tigers boss.
“Nick had a really tough night at Salford. He started the game poorly but then he did a whole lot of work for us including 27 carries and about 190 metres.
“He got knocked about a bit but that’s the way he plays. He was limping for large parts of the game and he’s come up with a few bangs and knocks but it’s nothing too major and we’re hoping he’ll be back for the following week.
“It looks like Ritchie Owen will be available so it could be a straight swap.
“Stuart Jones could also be okay and we are hoping he will be back.”
The Tigers are still without Samaon centre Willie Isa because of a foot injury.
“It’s pretty frustrating for Willie and for us but he’s doing everything to get it right,” said Matterson, who was delighted with his side’s performance against-in-form Salford last Friday.
The Tigers came out on top in the closing stages after Rangi Chase kicked a superb 40-20 to set up the position for Danny Orr to score a crucial late try.
Matterson said: “It had been raining all day and the ball was really hard to hold on to but our defence was excellent. We’ve worked really hard in that area and I was really pleased.
“Salford’s only points came from a long-range try and another try from a kick.
“We are beginning to grind out tough wins against teams that have been in pretty good form and I was really pleased with the manner in which we won.
“Salford have been going well and they played well against us last Friday so that makes it even better for us that we came up with a tough win.
“We’ve lost some games when we had leads like matches against Wakefield and St Helens so it’s pleasing that the guys are being a lot more patient. They are confident in what we are doing and the right way to go and that eventually we’ll get there. It was in the 80th minute we got a draw against Wigan and it took a bit of time to get there against Salford and I was again pleased with our composure.”
Matterson was again pleased with the form of half-backs Chase and Orr.
“I thought Danny Orr was outstanding,” he said.
“He played quite a bit at dummy half for us as well and he came up with really good plays defensively. He’s a really good foil for Rangi who came up with a couple of big plays for us as well. They’ve been good for us all year.
“I thought our back three - our full-back and two wingers - did a lot of the tough work. They did a lot of carries and they got us on the front foot for the halves to do what they were able to do.
“It was a great 40-20 from Rangi. The play before Nick Youngquest did a great run to get him a quick play the ball. Rangi had the vision to have a go which was probably a little bit brave but his execution was right and we got the right result.”
Castleford’s Probiz Coliseum stages the final round of the Rugby League Nines next Tuesday with the action starting at 7.30pm.
The Tigers will take on Halifax, Hull KR and local rivals Wakefield Wildcats.
Admission is £6 for adults, £3 juniors/OAPs with advance tickets available from www.castigers.com and the club shop in Carlton Lanes.
Castleford have made a magnificent start to the competitiion. They have a 100 per cent record after winning all their matches in each of the opening three rounds.