BATTLING Castleford Tigers gave defending champions Wigan Warriors a huge scare in Wednesday night’s Super League clash at DW Stadium.
Wigan recovered from 16-10 down at half-time to win their game in hand 26-16 and move top of the engage Super League but the Tigers emerged from the game with tremendous credit.
Despite being without 11 first-teamers through injury, Castleford outplayed Wigan for long periods of the re-arranged game and twice held the lead before crucially conceding three tries in a nine-minute spell early in the second half.
Castleford’s absentees included former Wigan full-back Richard Mathers and past and present captains Ryan Hudson and Danny Orr, who all pulled out on the day of the game, but the visitors lacked nothing in spirit.
They gave a debut to prop Rob Parker, who has joined the club on a month’s loan from Salford, and he was introduced - for his first match for four months - after only seven minutes when veteran front rower Nick Fozzard limped out of the action.
Wigan, who were without reigning Man of Steel Pat Richards, lost his centre partner George Carmont early in the game but made the best possible start when Josh Charnley leapt above Castleford rookie Greg Eden to collect Paul Deacon’s kick to the corner and score the first of his two tries.
Wigan made a point of attacking Castleford’s left but Eden overcame a shaky start to create a favourable impression on only his third senior appearance.
But it was experienced Australian utility back Ryan McGoldrick who caught the eye for the visitors with his clever ball distribution.
He provided the pass for second rower Stuart Jones to slide over for the Tigers’ first try on 10 minutes and combined with Dean Widders to get right winger Richard Owen over for a second eight minutes later.
Wigan drew level when Joel Tomkins’ pass gave Charnley an unopposed run for his second try but it was no surprise when the visitors regained the lead four minutes before the break, albeit in fortuitous fashion.
Sam Tomkins looked to have gathered Rangi Chase’s grubber kick on his own line but the ball came loose from Widders’ challenge and 20-year-old back rower John Davies pounced for his first Super League try on only his second appearance for the club.
Castleford survived a scare early in the second half when Eden lost the ball on his own line, with Chris Tuson failing to control the touchdown, but Wigan were quickly level when second rower Liam Farrell took Deacon’s short pass to go over for his side’s third try.
Carmont returned from the bench in time to cross for the try that put the Warriors back in front on 53 minutes and just two minutes later Brett Finch got Ryan Hoffman romping through a gaping hole in the Castleford defence for a fifth try.
The Tigers were unfortunate not to score when Brett Ferres reached the line, video referee Phil Bentham deciding he failed to ground the ball, and the back rower was quickly in action at the other end of the field, pulling off a wonderful tackle to deny Thomas Leuluai.
Castleford suffered a blow in the dying seconds when Jake Emmitt was carried off with knee ligament damage.