Tongan powerhouse Epalahame Lauaki was Wigan’s unlikely hero with his first tries for the club as the Stobart Super League leaders opened up a five-point gap on second-placed Warrington with a comfortable win over a depleted Castleford.
Lauaki had managed just one try in 27 Super League appearances for Hull in 2011 but he romped over for his first for Wigan – on his 23rd appearance – after only four minutes and two minutes later doubled his tally to give his side a dream start.
Winger Iain Thornley then marked his debut with a third try to put Wigan 16-0 up inside 10 minutes but they were made to work for the rest of their tries by a patched-up Tigers side hit by the withdrawal of three players on the day of the game.
The Warriors, who had scrum-half Matty Smith making his home debut, produced a mixed show on their first appearance at the DW Stadium since crashing out of the Challenge Cup and succumbing at home to Bradford in Super League.
They lost centre Darrell Goulding to injury in the first half and also lost their way after establishing that early cushion.
Castleford coach Ian Millward was forced to field a patched-up side after losing his new half-back pair of Jamie Ellis and Rangi Chase, with forwards Stuart Jones and Oliver Holmes filling in at centre and stand-off respectively.
They looked in danger of being over-run after Wigan’s early scoring burst but went on to play their part in an entertaining encounter.
The impressive Thornley twice got away down the wing but demonstrated his inexperience by failing to make the most of the opportunities and the visitors took advantage of the let-offs.
The game was held up for 10 minutes so that Goulding could have treatment on the pitch following a head collision before being carried off on a stretcher and it seemed to distract Wigan for a time.
Castleford pulled a try back three minutes before the break when winger Rhys Williams was put into space by Jordan Thompson and wrong-footed Sam Tomkins.
Nick Youngquest added the conversion but there was just time for Wigan to score a fourth try through makeshift centre Liam Farrell after they had kept the ball alive following the sounding of the half-time hooter.
The Tigers battled their way to another try early in the second half when Holmes got the first touch to Ryan Hudson’s grubber kick to the line and Youngquest’s second goal cut the gap to just eight points.
But Wigan’s evergreen centre George Carmont produced a strong finish to claim his side’s fifth try on 57 minutes and Tomkins took an inside pass from a busy Thornley to go over on 66 minutes.
Tomkins then got Charnley over for his 31st try of the season and, after gallant Castleford pulled another try back through Jones, Tomkins grabbed his second after collecting Harrison Hansen’s pass by his bootlaces.
The England full-back kicked a fourth goal to take his points tally for the match to 16.
It was always going to be a struggle for the depleted Tigers, missing Chase and Ellis.
Half-backs Chase and Ellis both suffered leg injuries in Sunday’s spirited home defeat by Warrington and had been battling to regain fitness all week. Ryan Hudson also came down with a stomach bug on Thursday which left him a big doubt to play.
Before kick-off, head coach Millward said: “It is disappointing that Rangi and Jamie won’t be available to us tonight. When naming Rangi and Jamie in the squad on Wednesday we were hopeful that they would be right.
“Our physio and the players themselves have worked really hard but unfortunately they have both failed late fitness tests and are not fit enough to play,” he said.
Wigan Warriors: S. Tomkins, Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Thornley, Finch, Smith, Lauaki, McIlorum, Mossop, Hansen, Hock, Flower. Substitutes: Lima, Farrell, Tuson, Crosby.
Castleford Tigers: Owen, Williams, Thompson, Jones, Youngquest, Holmes, Orr, Jackson, Milner, Huby, Snitch, Millington, Emmitt. Substitutes: Hudson, Nash, Mitchell, Massey.
Referee: G Stokes (RFL).