CASTLEFORD Tigers coach Terry Matterson (pictured) has warned his players they must keep going for the full 80 minutes if they are to end their losing run in Super League at Harlequins’ expense on Sunday.
Tigers’ run of five games without a league win began away to the London club when they let a 24-10 lead slip and ended up scrambling to get a 26-26 draw.
Since then they have lost to Wakefield from a similar winning position and suffered more predictable, but contrasting defeats to St Helens, Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves.
But Sunday’s game, in front of an expected big crowd with a two for one offer in place for supporters, gives Cas a chance to consolidate their position in the top half of the table again if they have learned from their mistakes.
“We want to get back to winning in Super League. We need to get these two points and to build on last week,” said Matterson.
“We’ve lost four in a row in Super League and it seems like we’ve been on 15 points forever and a day. We’re keen to break that cycle and get back in the winners’ circle. Harlequins are probably in a similar position. They’re in a bad run, but I watched their game at Leeds and they had them in trouble for quite a long time.
“We’ve got to be wary. They’ve got a lot of threats and they showed down there that if we don’t play for 80 minutes we will be in trouble against them.
“They play some expansive rugby with Luke Dorn, Luke Gale and Chad Randall good with the ball and I’d expect them to give it some air. We’re going to have to make sure that our defence is right on its game.”
Matterson admits his players have been down on confidence, but last Saturday’s Challenge Cup win over local rivals Wakefield and the manner of the victory has given everyone a big lift.
He said: “We’d like to think we can play a lot better, but through our enthusiasm and desperation we managed to find a way to win it was good for us to win the way we did.
“Credit to Wakefield, they pushed us all the way and put us in a tough position at 16-6. But we can get a lot of confidence out of the way we came back.
“We carried the ball great and made as many metres as in any game this year. But we’re looking for a little bit more control and better last plays.
“I think we got a good reaction from the week before and the guys just dug in for each other. It wasn’t smart at times and wasn’t one for the purists, but conditions played a part in that.
“We just needed to be very direct and probably as basic as possible and in the end it got the job done.
“I don’t think people understand how tough conditions were. It was very, very windy and it made it hard to play an expansive game.
“It makes it all the more creditable what Kirk Dixon did. The kick near the end of the 80 minutes was into the wind and the last one was far from easy in those conditions.
“It’s a real credit to Kirk and the work he’s done and I’m pleased for him.”
Several more players came in for praise from the coach, including wounded hero Jake Emmitt, who bravely played with a broken nose.
Matterson said: “The prop forwards had to play a lot of game time because we only had three front rowers, but they ran well throughout.
“Nathan Massey stood up and all three guys were very good down the middle.
“Jake Emmitt broke his nose the day before the game in training. He got laid out and had blood coming out everywhere and it was ironic that in the first five minutes he got another whack there.
“But it was a real tough, gutsy effort from him. Not just to get up and play the rest of the game, but to do it in the manner he did. He toughed it out and showed the way up front for us.
“Our back three, the wingers and full-back, were great as well, with Richard Mathers and Richard Owen running for over 200 metres in the game.
“To have two outside backs running for 200 metres is highly unusual and they were a real threat up the middle. We just needed to do a bit better on the back end of that stuff.
“I thought Willie Isa was good on his return to the team, but he’s now got a foot injury. We’re not too sure how bad it is, but we’re hopeful he’s going to be available this weekend.
“He’s just going to get stronger and stronger for us. He just needs to get some games under his belt, but he showed again that he’s a very good defensive centre and gives us some solidarity out there.”
Isa will be given every chance to recover from his latest injury with the 19-man squad not announced until tomorrow afternoon and Nick Youngquest, a surprise inclusion in the 19 last week, is also touch and go. Paul Jackson (back) and Martin Aspinwall (calf) are likely to still be out, but back row forward Stuart Jones, who pulled out on the morning of the Wakefield game with an eye infection, should be available.
Supporters have until 4.30pm on Saturday to take advantage of the club’s discounted ticket offers for Sunday’s clash with Harlequins.
Season ticket holders will need to get their season ticket book stamped at the club shop in Carlton Lanes Shopping Centre before this time to take advantage of the bring a friend for free offer.
The buy one, get one free offer on advance tickets will also apply until closing on Saturday. Neither offer will be available on match day when admission at the turnstiles will be the normal price of £20 (adults) and £12 (OAPs and under 16s).
Advance tickets are available from the Carlton Lanes club shop, online at www.castigers.com or by calling 01977 555336.