Castleford Tigers 22 Wigan Warriors 28: Castleford players deserve spotlight – Millward
Ian Millward wants the focus to be on Castleford Tigers’ on-field improvement after they delivered another encouraging display in a home defeat to Wigan Warriors.
The Tigers have been in the headlines recently due to the resignations of chief executive Steve Ferres, commercial manager Nick Fozzard and the latter’s wife Sarah, the club’s marketing manager.
However, Millward believes more attention should be paid to his side’s performances in Super League.
After finishing second-bottom in 2012, Cas have looked stronger this term and yesterday’s narrow defeat – which came after they had rallied from 22-4 down to level the scores – represented their first loss at home.
“I’d really appreciate it if all we did was talk about rugby league,” said Millward.
“Some of the conspiracy and manipulation of the situation to say that we’re down and out (is wrong). We’ve got a chairman (Jack Fulton) who is so supportive of us.
“The off-season was all about being a competitive team and what the fans want is for this team to do Cas proud, regardless of the result.
“I felt it was really disrespectful to my players last week; there was a big story saying ‘club in turmoil – media manager leaves’.
“We’d just had a 17-all draw and a great game against Catalan and the whole story was about that. I don’t think that’s what Cas people want; they’re a working-class community and they just want their rugby league team to be really competitive.
“Last year we weren’t competitive and we weren’t good enough, but these guys have busted their a***s the last five games.
“The fans should be really proud of the players at the moment.”
Millward was understandably buoyed by his team’s fightback against Wigan, which featured a brace of tries from powerful winger Justin Carney.
Castleford were ultimately denied by Chris Tuson’s second score, which came after Rangi Chase had struck the woodwork for the hosts with a drop-goal attempt.
“It was a tough way to lose right at the death there, but I can’t fault our players’ commitment or attitude. There wasn’t much in the game,” added Millward.
“I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made. The effort was very strong, but you like with effort to get the result too.
“At 22-all it’s obviously a great finish; it would have been nice to finish it off and back up that effort. I thought the players were entitled to something.”
Wigan coach Shaun Wane admitted his side had got off the hook after failing to build on their first-half superiority.
“I’m happy to get the two points but the manner we got them in I’m a bit disappointed with,” said Wane.
“I thought we played well in parts, but we just weren’t consistent enough.
“I’m glad we showed some steel in finishing it off, but that was definitely a get-out-of-jail card and you’ve got to commend Castleford for coming back.”
Wigan were penalised three times early on, yet it was Castleford’s first transgression that proved costly.
Sam Tomkins was lifted above the horizontal during a tackle and, from the resulting penalty, Ben Flower took Blake Green’s short pass to cross, with Pat Richards adding a simple conversion.
Jordan Tansey burst clear for Castleford moments later, only to be called back with referee Thierry Alibert having spotted a forward pass.
Another scare for Wigan followed when Tomkins lost the ball inside his own 10-metre line, but some solid defence kept the Tigers at bay.
The visitors gradually upped their game and were rewarded for a period of pressure when Richards rounded off a flowing cross-field move before adding a second successful kick.
Cas saw an excellent try-scoring opportunity go begging when Carney got away down the left yet failed to release Lee Gilmour on his inside.
They were immediately punished as Josh Charnley rose to parry a high kick backwards, leaving Tuson with a simple close-range finish.
Wigan’s lead was reduced prior to the interval when Carney atoned for his earlier error by laying on a score for Jake Webster, who exhibited pace and strength to go over in the corner.
Yet Michael McIlorum was allowed to worm his way over from dummy half at the start of the second period and Richards added the extras to make it 22-4.
After Green had been held up over the line, Castleford hit back in stunning fashion.
Ellis went in under the posts following excellent work from Webster, who made the initial break from inside his own half, with Tansey and Daryl Clark supporting.
Ellis duly converted and was soon adding another two points after Carney had capitalised on a surging run from Gilmour by powering through tackles from Charnley and Tomkins on his way to the line.
A 40-20 from Ellis kept Wigan on the back foot and the influential Carney stepped in off his wing to grab another try, with the resulting conversion levelling the scores.
Chase then hit the upright and Matty Smith had a pop at goal charged down at the other end before regathering to start the attack that led to Tuson’s crucial score for Wigan.
Castleford: Tansey, Carney, Shenton, Webster, Dixon, Chase, Ellis, Emmitt, Clark, Mason, Gilmour, Hauraki, Millington. Substitutes: Huby, Massey, Holmes, Thompson.
Wigan: S. Tomkins, Charnley, Hughes, Thornley, Richards, Green, Smith, Dudson, McIlorum, Crosby, Tuson, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Substitutes: Flower, Taylor, Powell, Burke.
Referee: T Alibert (France)