‘Our inability in the trenches is a real concern’ - Lee Radford voices Castleford Tigers’ worry

MORE THAN halfway through the season, Castleford Tigers are eight points adrift of Wigan Warriors in the Super League table, but their coach Lee Radford believes the gap between the teams is actually much greater.

Having seen his side, fresh after a two-week gap between games, squander a healthy lead at home to the new Challenge Cup holders, Radford admitted he envies the “steel and stiffness” shown by the men in cherry and white.

The fixture following their triumph at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium should have been a good time to play Wigan and Tigers were cruising when they led 12-0 after 24 minutes.

At that stage Wigan appeared, unsurprisingly, to be suffering a hangover from their dramatic last-gasp win over Huddersfield Giants exactly a week earlier, but Tigers let them off the hook and ended up well beaten.

Kenny Edwards celebrates scoring the Tigers second try. before it all went wrong against Wigan Warriors. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

It could prove a costly defeat for Radford’s men in what is becoming a wide open battle for the final Super League play-off spot.

With 13 games remaining, Castleford still have plenty of time to cement a place in the top six, but they will have to find some consistency and that has been something notable only by its absence during the first half of the campaign.

At times Castleford have looked like a quality side, particularly on attack, but too often they have let themselves down and Saturday’s game was their season so far in microcosm.

From the moment Castleford’s Mahe Fonua was sin-binned, for kicking out at Liam Farrell 10 minutes before the break, the visitors dominated.

Bureta Faraimo evades Liam Marshall as Castleford Tigers fell to Wigan Warriors. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

A try soon after the yellow card got them off the mark and they were far superior in the second half, going ahead by the 49th minute and never giving Tigers a chance to get back in the game.

Castleford conceded 32 points without reply and Radford accepted they were taught a lesson.

“We spoke all week about having to play this team for 80 minutes,” said Radford.

“They just don’t go away, they have got that steel and stiffness that as a coach you are incredibly envious of.

Mahe Fonua is held by Willis Isa and Jai Field during Castleford Tigers v Wigan Warriors in Betfred SuperLeague. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

“Clearly there is a huge gap between them and us at the moment.

“It is only eight points [on the table], but it is a lot more than that for me.

“Our inability to be able to get in the trench when it gets tough is a real concern.”

Castleford have won six and lost eight of their 14 league games and Radford admitted: “We aren’t consistent.”

He said: “We haven’t been for three years – we are seventh, eighth, that’s average.

“That’s win one, lose one, win one, lose one.

“That’s where the team is and where the club is.

“We are working really hard to try and minimise the gap between our best and worst, but I am six or eight months in [to the job, after joining Tigers in pre-season] and it is going to take a bit longer than that, looking at the way we are going.”

Radford didn’t feel the sin-binning was a turning point, but conceded losing full-back Gareth O’Brien – who did not come out for the second half after suffering a calf injury – was a huge blow.

He reflected: “You get challenged in the game we play.

“The response is what makes the elite the elite and the weak the weak.

“That [the sin-binning] wasn’t the issue for me, the start to the second period and our inability, particularly our middle, to hold them killed us.

“Gaz O’Brien going off was critical.

“That second half, playing fatigued with a chasing-the-game mentality, we looked like a pub team.”

Winger Greg Eden marked his return from injury with the opening try off a pass by Jake Trueman and then Kenny Edwards, who was Castleford’s best player, powered over for the second.

O’Brien converted both, either side of a missed penalty kick, but Liam Marshall began Wigan’s fightback seven minutes before the break.

Tigers went in 12-4 ahead, but touchdowns from Bevan French and Abbas Miski on 45 and 49 minutes – and the first two of Harry Smith’s four goals – gave Wigan the lead. Marshall added a second try on 54 minutes, Jake Bibby stretched over at the start of the final quarter and Farrell completed Tigers’ misery in the closing moments.

Castleford Tigers: Hampshire, Olpherts, Faraimo, Fonua, Eden, Trueman, O’Brien, Watts, McShane, Griffin, Edwards, Lawler, Westerman. Subs Milner, Massey, D Smith, Matagi.

Warrington Wolves: French, Miski, Thornley, Bibby, Marshall, Field, H Smith, Singleton, Powell, Byrne, Farrell, Isa, Ellis. Subs Mago, Partington, Havard, Shorrocks.

Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).