Catalans Dragons v Castleford Tigers: Webster enters Dragons’ den as Tigers target top-four finish

Castleford's Jake Webster.
Castleford's Jake Webster.
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JAKE WEBSTER says victory in France today would serve as a significant boost in Castleford Tigers’ bid to retain their Super League top-four hopes.

The West Yorkshire club are in Perpignan ready to take on Catalans Dragons this evening.

To go there and win would really help towards making sure we stay in this top-four. We were up to third after beating Wigan, we’ve had a big week training and have got some troops back now so we’re looking forward to it.

Jake Webster

In recent weeks, Castleford have found the sort of form which suggests they could make another challenge to reach a Grand Final having lost out to Leeds Rhinos in last season’s title decider.

They are undefeated in their last four matches having beaten Hull KR, won at top-four rivals Warrington Wolves, drawn in the reverse fixture with Rovers and then, most impressively, beating second-placed Wigan Warriors despite missing 11 injured first-team players.

Reflecting on that epic win, when Jamie Ellis’s last minute drop goal edged Castleford home, experienced centre Webster admitted: “It’s credit to everyone working behind the scenes to get the squad we need and have such great depth.

“It was a great win. To miss the players we did would disrupt any team but the boys that came in were nothing short of outstanding.

“Mitch Clark came in and stepped up, Gadwin (Springer) came back after his injured back, there was James Green and big Will Maher starting.

“I could go on and on. They all put their best foot forward and we very happy to come away with points. We still weren’t fantastic but we did the job and now we have to back it up against Catalans.”

The former New Zealand international added: “It is always tough to go there. They are a massive side.

“But to go there and win would really help towards making sure we stay in this top-four. We were up to third after beating Wigan, we’ve had a big week training and have got some troops back now so we’re looking forward to it.”

Rightly so. After a difficult start to their year, Castleford are certainly beginning to find their rhythm again and there is no reason to believe that cannot continue at Stade Gilbert Brutus this evening.

Tigers have won their last five meetings with Catalans including triumphs in Perpignan in each of the last two seasons.

Granted, traditionally it is one of the tougher away fixtures but Daryl Powell’s side seemed to have mastered it in recent times and they also vanquished Catalans 41-0 at home in April.

However, Steve McNamara’s team have improved considerably since that last meeting as they strive in pursuit of a different goal – avoiding the Qualifiers.

The French club are gaining confidence in their belief they will achieve that aim; they have won five of their last six games in all competitions.

Ahead of this round, Catalans had climbed from bottom to ninth, just one point ahead of Leeds and Huddersfield in seventh and eighth respectively.

Another win tonight will see them enter the top eight with just four more rounds to play and they are also in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final against St Helens on August 5.

But Tigers are strengthened by the return from injury of four members of their pack.

Ex-Hull FC prop Liam Watts is back after missing the last three games with a calf problem while Adam Milner, Jesse Sene-Lefao and Oli Holmes are all fit after being sidelined for that Wigan win.

Admittedly, Powell has lost the services of one of Super League’s form players Jy Hitchcox.

The Australian winger had scored in each of their last six games, amassing 10 tries during the run, but suffered a serious back injury in the second half against Wigan.

Meanwhile, Webster – who turns 35 in October – is out of contract at the end of the season but says he is not intending to retire just yet.

“I do still want to play on,” said the former Melbourne Storm star, now in his sixth season at Wheldon Road following five years with Hull KR.

“I’m not sure where it will be and whether it’s here or I’ve got to move on from this club.

“All I can control now is what I do out on the field.

“I’ve got to start putting some consistent games back to back and then the rest should take care of itself hopefully. I will hopefully get something – no matter what it is – in the next month or two.”

More than 1,000 Castleford fans have bought tickets and made the trip over to the south of France, a figure which represents the biggest away following to Catalans so far this season.

Powell said: “Catalans are generally a better team when they play at home. They are a physical challenge; their pack is big, and they have some really experienced players in their team.

“They are playing with confidence, winning games and will see Saturday as an opportunity to push themselves up the ladder before the Super 8s split so we will be ready for a real tough challenge.”