With the Catalans Dragons dealing with a number of positive coronavirus tests their game against the Wigan Warriors was postponed so rather than have a bye weekend, the Castleford Tigers were again called upon to step into the breach.
A win for the Warriors would guarantee them top spot at the end of this weekend’s rounds but a loss could open the door to any of the chasing pack with Warrington and St Helens both capable of passing the Warriors on points difference. A win for Daryl Powell’s Tigers would lift them to at least fifth spot, two points behind the top of the table.
Wigan were the favourites for the win but the Tigers had only been given a six point start on the handicapping coupon as the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington hosted the first match of the weekends bonanza.
Tempers frayed in the opening seconds with Danny Richardson and Jackson Hastings first grappling on the floor and then pushing and shoving one another as they regained their feet. Referee Child had a word but took no action.
The Tigers went close on twelve through Oliver Holmes but great defence kept them out but incessant pressure on the Wigans line. But with four back-to-back sets, Gareth O’Brien finally found his way over, throwing the dummy and stepping through a tired and broken defence. Danny Richardson added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
The Tigers were in again on twenty-one with Nathan Massey finding his way to ground from first reciever. Richardson added the conversion and Castleford were good for their 12-0 lead.
Wigan opened their account on twenty-five when Sam Powell scooted from dummy half and bounced over the line from five metres out. Zak Hardaker added his kick to get his side back within six points.
Wigan made it two quick tries a minute later after a breakaway try down the left wing, Liam Farrell passing to Joe Burgess who went over and improved the angle but Hardaker was unable to add the conversion.
Wigan hit the front on thirty-four, Ben Flower pushing aside the Tigers supporters after a set restart as he took a Sam Powell pass five metres from the line. Hardaker added the conversion for 16-12, sixteen unanswered Wigan points.
A ‘crusher’ tackle from Morgan Smithies on James Clare stopped the game in it’s tracks just under three minutes after the restart. After a very long delay to stretcher Clare off the field, Morgan Smithies was yellow carded.
Against the twelve men, Derrell Olpherts went over in the corner for the Tigers off an O’brien miss-out pass. Richardson was unable to add the conversion, the sides all tied up at 16-16. It was game on.
A Hardaker penalty goal on fifty-three, just as Smithies re-entered the pitch after his enforced ten minute rest, put Wigan back into a two point lead.Just after the hour Liam Farrell got just rewards for a monumental stint taking a Leuluai pass to ground and when Hardaker drilled his conversion between the stick it was 24-16.
A Harry Smith 40-20 planted Wigan deep in the Tigers twenty and on the third tackle Joe Bullock pushed aside the defence to score by the uprights. Hardaker added the conversion for a 30-16 lead, the game slipping from the Tigers and the points heading back to Wigan.
Six from time Michael Shenton beat Hardaker to a Jacob Trueman grubber to the corner after the Wiganner tried to lash the ball dead in goal but missed allowing Shenton to collect and ground. Richardson added the conversion for 22-30 but it was too late for the Tigers.
Two devastating periods, one in each half, won the game for the Warriors but the Tigers will count themselves as unlucky that they weren’t able to get something out of a game where they showed plenty of effort and determination. Castleford were their own worst enemies at time and it was their own indiscipline and errors which ultimately cost them the points.
Warriors: French, Marshall, Bibby, Hardaker (4G), Burgess J (T), Leuluai, Hastings, Bullock (T), Powell (T), Byrne, Farrell (T), Isa, Havard. Subs: Burgess G, Flower (T), Smith, Smithies (SB on 43).
Tigers: O’Brien (T), Clare, Shenton (T), Foster, Olpherts (T), Trueman, Richardson (3G), Watts, McShane, Griffin, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey (T). Subs: Millington, Milner, Sene-Lefeo, Smith.
Referee: James Child.
Ground: Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington.