Rudder steers Cas through

Castleford 32 Union Trezieste Catalan 20
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Castleford won their first game of any sort this year but were far from convincing against a French side showing a big improvement on their previous efforts in the Challenge Cup.

"It was all about getting into round five, but it wasn't pretty," admitted the Castleford coach, Graham Steadman, who had been among those shovelling snow off the pitch to make it playable. "If I had known what I was going to watch, I would have stayed at home with the family."

UTC had been on the end of 70-point thrashings by Wigan and St Helens in their last two cup ventures and the early signs did not point to this one being a lot better. Their defence were not into their stride, with Craig Greenhill's pass out of the tackle giving Castleford the early momentum, which Wayne Godwin exploited by diving over from dummy half.

The Tigers' new stand-off, Sean Rudder then handled twice in a fine move which ended with Sean Ryan sending Damien Gibson in at the corner. Rudder's partnership with another recent arrival, Ryan Sheridan, seemed to be flourishing when he took the scrum-half's pass for the third try, improved by Godwin's second goal.

But that was the signal for a French fightback. Steve Hall was held up over the line and they moved the ball the other way for Aurelien Cologni to touch down. After Castleford had conceded possession by straying offside from the kick-off the French scored again. This time it was Julien Rinaldi's clever kick that gave Hall his chance and the French were within six points.

That margin was stretched when Jamie Thackray got over from Jon Hepworth's pass, but UTC kept in touch with a penalty after Ryan was placed on report for use of the elbow. Eleven minutes into the second half the impressive Djamal Fakir scored a wonderful forward's try, fending off four would-be tacklers on a 30-yard charge to the line. Castleford hit back when Greenhill retrieved the ball from the kick-off and, on the last tackle, the wing Waine Pryce squeezed in.

UTC had their chances, but 10 minutes from time they were worn down for Thackray to cross for the clinching try. Howlett then picked off Rudder's pass, but it was too little too late. "I'd like to think we've got a team going in the right direction.'' said Steve Deakin, who hopes to lead UTC into Super League in 2006. "It was a good advert for the game in France.''

Castleford: Saxton; Gibson, Clayton, Rogers, Pryce; Rudder, Sheridan; Greenhill, Godwin, Sykes, Harland, Ryan, Hudson. Substitutes used: Hepworth, Jackson, Smith, Thackray.

UTC: Horne; Hill, Howlett, Hall, Berges; Frayssinous, Rinaldi; Bauden, Berthezine, Fellous, Jampy, Fakir, Cologni. Substitutes used: Martinus, Teixido, Mounis, Bosc.

Referee: A Klein (London).