Tigers in confident mood for big clash

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CASTLEFORD Tigers are aiming to make the most of home advantage when they take on Huddersfield Giants in Sunday’s Carnegie Challenge Cup quarter-final at the Probiz Coliseum.

Tigers boss Terry Matterson (pictured) labelled the cup tie as the biggest at home in his time as coach and called for supporters to be in full voice to roar the players to within 80 minutes of Wembley.

He said: “We really want the big vocal backing of the fans and we want as much help as we can get from them.

“They were great down at Crusaders and they make a difference. We need them all there on Sunday, loud in voice and right behind the guys.

“We’ve got to make it a factor that we’re at home. We really want the supporters to come out on Sunday and support us.

“We haven’t had as big a game at home in the Challenge Cup while I’ve been here. The stakes are really high and we’ve got to make it count that we’re at home.

“We understand that football fields are similar wherever you play, but there’s no doubt that being on your own ground is a distinct advantage and our form here has been generally good this season

“At the end of the day we know playing at home is not going to win us the game alone, but we are more comfortable here and we are pleased that we came out first in the draw.”

Castleford have already beaten Huddersfield at the Probiz Coliseum this season and memories of the performance that night can give them some belief that they can overcome the Giants.

Huddersfield’s recent form – four straight away defeats – can also be a factor, but Matterson reckons they have not suddenly become a bad side overnight and will still bring with them threats all over the park.

He said: “There could be two schools of thought on whether it’s a good time to play Huddersfield. They haven’t been playing at their best and they’ve been struggling for some form, but they’re such a good team that they can turn that around. Last week when they were well beaten was just a one-off. Bradford got in their face and deserved a lot of plaudits. They were aggressive and kicked really well for position and showed us a lot of what we really need to do.

“It was also Danny Brough’s first game back and he was a little bit rusty. He’ll be better for the game. But they’ve got a lot of good players and their position’s a bit like us, playing in a different competition can freshen teams up. So we’re expecting them to be at their best.

“We did a really good job against them at the start of the season at home, but we didn’t do such a good job at their place.

“But we’ve got no fears. We know they’re a good side and we’ll have to play really well, but we’re confident we can get the job done.

“Confidence is good in the camp. You can’t beat winning, whether it’s ugly or whatever.

“Besides the front row stocks we’re fairly healthy in every other area. Apart from the front row men who are out injured, Willie Isa is the only other one who won’t be available so in every other position we’ve got a little bit of choice.

“It’s a big prize on offer. We’re grateful that we’ve got the opportunity to play in the quarter-finals and we want more big games down the track.

“We’re in a good position in both competitions, but we know that all change quickly and we’ve got to make the most of this opportunity.

“We were in this position two years ago playing Huddersfield and we let it slip at the back end. If we get a similar performance as that day it will be great, but we have to get the result on the back of it as well.”

Tigers have star stand-off Rangi Chase back for Sunday’s game after his initial two-match ban was reduced to one, while hooker Adam Milner is also expected to return to the squad after missing out at Crusaders last weekend.

Prop Nick Fozzard also missed the trip to Wales and remains doubtful for the cup tie, but has not been ruled out yet. Cas do have cover with loan men Rob Parker and Ben Davies both given clearance to play in the Challenge Cup for their adopted club.

However, Steve Snitch is out after picking up a bicep injury in last week’s game that will sideline him for at least three weeks.

“It’s good we’ll have Rangi back. It turned out to be perfect last week, we won the game without him and he got to freshen up,” said Matterson.

“He’s played a lot of rugby this season so it’s worked out great that he had a week off. There was a point in the season where I would have liked to have rested him, but it’s been forced upon us and it’s worked out well.

“Adam Milner will also be back in the frame. He probably could have played last week, but he’s been carrying an injury and we decided to give it a week to make sure he’s all right.

“With Nick Fozzard we’re giving him as long as possible before deciding if he can play, but his recovery has been slower than anticipated.

“I’m gutted for Steve Snitch, who will definitely miss out. It’s been a bit of an up and down season for him, but he got an opportunity on the weekend and it’s been taken away from him. He will be out for three to four weeks.”

Matterson is pleased to have recent loan signings, Parker and Davies, available and praised their efforts against Crusaders last Saturday:

“The new boys were excellent. Rob’s input in three games has been good. He’s come to us at a really tough time, playing three games in ten days when he hasn’t played for such a long time, but he’s done a good job for us.

“Ben showed as well that he’s going to be a good addition to our squad. There were some things he can improve on, but I thought he carried the ball well and we’ll certainly need him with five forwards still out and a massive hole to fill.”

Matterson knows his side must improve on their performance at Crusaders when he was critical of his side’s first half display in particular, but their ability to win when not at their best was a big positive.

He added: “I’m really pleased for the guys that they came up with a win. It was ugly and we weren’t great, but people need to understand what we’ve come through, the amount of tough games. We went to Catalan then had a six-day turnaround to Warrington, a four-day turnaround to Wigan, another four-day to Bradford and a six-day turnaround to Crusaders. So just to find a way to win was outstanding.

“I thought we dealt with a few things at half-time. There were a few harsh words because we were way off and it wasn’t just one, two or three players, there was a whole lot. We were making elementary mistakes like not finding touch with two penalties and it was making things really difficult.

“We could have been 20 points down and probably should have been. We had a little bit of luck, which we probably haven’t had this year. But we came out with the right attitude for the second half and got on the front foot only to give away an intercept that made things difficult. We didn’t panic, though, and in the end we found a way to win it in the last couple of minutes.

“Some people underestimate how big a result it was for us to go over there and get the job done. They had seven players who had come back into their squad and they knew they had the weekend off after so they were fresh. They were sitting there waiting for us. We had four front rowers out and lost another early in the game in Steve Snitch. It really put a lot of pressure on the front row stocks and we were without Rangi as well.

“We’ve moved through the Crusaders game pretty quickly. We’ve thrown that one in the bin to be honest and we’re now looking forward, we’ve got a different competition to focus on. Hopefully we can shake off the effects of the tough programme we’ve had and the confidence of getting two wins on the trot will help us in a home quarter-final.”