CASTLEFORD TIGERS’ Joe Wardle admits his side must improve their physicality or they will be in “trouble” during his side’s crucial upcoming Super League semi-final at Wigan Warriors.
Their preparations for that big match were hardly ideal –Castleford were vanquished 26-0 at St Helens in their final Super 8s game at St Helens on Friday.
It was the first time since losing 28-0 at Wigan on May 8 2015 that Daryl Powell’s side had been kept pointless.
However, it was Castleford’s own defence that was more worrying for second-row Wardle as they prepare to face Wigan in this Friday’s sudden-death match-up for a place at Old Trafford.
“Personally, I think we lost the ruck too much in ‘d’ against Saints,” he said.
“Our ‘d’ wasn’t good enough.
“And we let them find their fronts too much.
“They just dominated us from the get-go really so that’s one thing we definitely have to sort out for next week.
“Wigan are one of the most physical sides on the comp’ so if we don’t match them we’ll be in a bit of trouble.”
Wigan enjoyed a 100 per cent win record in the Super 8s, completing a perfect competition by beating Hull FC 14-12 on Friday, and have now won their last eight matches ahead of their bid for the Grand Final.
Wardle, meanwhile, successfully completed his comeback from a calf injury to prove his fitness in time for Friday’s mouthwatering semi-final.
“The body’s come through pretty good and the calf is feeling pretty good, too,” said the ex-Huddersfield Giants star, who has had an injury-plagued first season at Wheldon Road since joining from NRL club Newcastle Knights.
“It was nice to get some minutes this week and I can now look forward to the big one on Friday.
“Galey (Luke Gale) managed to find me a few little holes early on. It all felt good.
“Obviously that’s my game (running those lines) and it felt like we were picking up some good combinations which, to be fair, we’ve been working on in training anyway,
“It’s all good. It felt comfortable. It’s just a shame we dished up a bit of a bad performance.”
Castleford had plenty of decent ball in the first 20 minutes but could not translate any of it into points.
Wardle, though, does not feel that early shut-out was the issue.
“I don’t think that determines the game,” he said.
“At this time of year you have to build pressure. I felt we were doing pretty well. It’d have been nice to get a try but we never managed to break them down and then they won the ruck.”
The 27-year-old was yellow-carded for a professional foul on Tommy Makinson in the first half. At first glance, it looked harsh as the Castleford player laid on the England international after he had broken clear.
But Wardle conceded: “It’s a professional foul isn’t it?
“I knew what I was doing when I did it so I can’t complain. If I hadn’t have done it I think they’d have scored straight away.”
Powell, who has an injury concern over Jake Trueman, said his Castleford side “wouldn’t have scored if we’d played until Wednesday” but remained confident they’d be ready in time for that all-important Wigan tie.