Castleford Tigers 26 Wigan Warriors 33: Tigers contribute to their own downfall
In a fine game, full of guts, skill and no little controversy, it was the visitors who edged home, essentially via Sam Powell’s scrappy try in the 67th minute, to strengthen their top-four hopes and dent those of Daryl Powell’s side.
However, Castleford will point to some contentious refereeing from Ben Thaler as one of the reasons their three-game winning run was ended.
They may have an argument for that. Similarly, though, they only have themselves to blame for other faults such as failing to challenge for a kick that led to Powell’s decisive score, rash ill-discipline and unusually lax defending at other times during a thrilling Super League encounter.
Throughout a fractious contest, Castleford, with the imposing Junior Moors named man of the match for a third successive week, had grown increasingly irritated by, well, Wigan’s increasingly irritating antics.
Shaun Wane’s side have been known to be a little niggly in their time and – love it or loathe it – they were at their niggling best last night.
Of course, Castleford – who got to within a score when Denny Solomona crossed for his 20th Super League try of the year in the 72nd minute – should not have been drawn in, but it is easy saying that from the stands.
Wigan, having vanquished Leeds Rhinos at Magic Weekend, led 14-12 at half-time and always managed to stay just ahead, mainly down to the precision kicking of England half-backs Matty Smith and George Williams.
Smith’s controversial 36th-minute penalty nudged them ahead.
Wigan’s John Bateman looked to lash out at Adam Milner when seeking to get out of the Castleford hooker’s tackle, prompting Luke Dorn to wade in on the England second-row as things erupted.
Thaler awarded the visitors the penalty, however, much to the bemusement of Powell’s side.
When Wigan’s Dom Manfredi spilled Luke Gale’s hoisted kick in the final seconds of the half, Jake Webster was incensed that Castleford were not awarded a penalty for an opponent being offside.
Thaler yellow-carded the Kiwi centre for dissent as they left the field – replays were unclear but suggested the dropped kick had probably bounced sideways – and, so, the hosts were down to 12 men for the start of the second period.
Wigan capitalised, Dom Manfredi racing 50m down the middle and, though being hauled in by Paul McShane, he recovered to expose slack defence later in the set.
Smith added his fourth goal from as many attempts to establish a 20-12 lead and, though Gale replied with a penalty as Webster returned, it was Wane’s side who pushed on.
Some fine handling to the left was finished expertly with Dan Sarginson ushering Josh Charnley over for his second.
Smith improved and tagged on another two points when, incredulously, Webster was penalised for dissent yet again.
Nevertheless, the veteran centre atoned somewhat by racing in for a fine try from 40m out on 61 minutes, Dorn the instigator with a lovely delayed pass for his colleague.
Gale converted but Castleford, criminally, left that kick hanging and then dawdled as Powell hacked on to score.
Dorn, again influential from full-back, thought he had crossed on 70 minutes but was just short.
The Australian did wonderfully to create space for Solomona’s second – the Kiwi winger had also scored in the first half along with McShane – with eight minutes to go, Gale converting for Cas to trail just 32-26.
However, as is so often the case, the experienced Smith took the sting out of the hosts’ rally with a drop goal five minutes from time and there was no rousing finale.
Earlier, Charnley had crossed after just three minutes after a mis-read from Castleford winger Paddy Flynn, but McShane – the hooker playing at stand-off as injured Benny Roberts’s replacement – swiftly hit back after fine build-up play from Grant Millington and, again, Dorn.
Gale added a penalty and Solomona slid just short after more fine creative play, but Wigan hit back fortuitously when scrum-half Smith’s grubber ricocheted for Sam Tomkins to score his first try since the England full-back’s return from New Zealand Warriors.
Gale produced a glorious long pass for Solomona to score in the 28th minute – he now has nine tries in his last five games – and Gale levelled with his kick.
But then Wigan took control before the break with that contentious penalty and, slowly but surely, they squeezed out Castleford, who will look to respond at Huddersfield in a week.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn; Flynn, Crooks, Webster, Solomona; McShane, Gale; Patrick, Milner, Millington, Moors, McMeeken, Jewitt. Substitutes: Tickle, Springer, Hampshire, Cook.
Wigan Warriors: S Tomkins; Manfredi, Sarginson, Gildart, Charnley; Williams, Smith; Crosby, Powell, Flower, Bateman, Isa, J Tomkins. Substitutes: Mossop, Tautai, Sutton, Burke.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).