Castleford Tigers’ winning run came to end as they were edged out by Wigan Warriors in a game that will be remembered more for Ben Thaler’s controversial decisions than the skills on show.
No quarter was given by either side in a rip roaring contest, but the not for the first time referee Thaler was the villain of the piece according to the Tigers fans after a number of decisions that angered them and went the way of Wigan.
The game was tight and could have gone either way, but big calls just before half-time and the sin-binning of Jake Webster proved crucial.
Cas could count themselves unlucky to be behind at the break, although Wigan opened the scoring just three minutes in when they were rewarded for a sharp start as George Williams’ cut out pass sent Josh Charnley over and Matty Smith kicked the conversion.
Cas replied on nine minutes when Grant Millington put them in good position with a strong break then on the sixth tackle Luke Dorn ran it and found Paul McShane in support to go over for a try converted by Luke Gale.
A penalty in front of the posts saw Gale take the chance to kick a goal and put the Tigers ahead and they were unlucky not to be further in front soon after as Denny Solomona was inches short of the line following a good handling move.
Back came Wigan to go back ahead on 24 minutes, Sam Tomkins collecting the ball after Smith’s kick had taken a kind deflection off the home team.
Charnley was taken in touch on the Warriors’ next attack as Cas toughened up their defence and it was the hosts’ turn to score next when Gale’s brilliant long pass gave Solomona a chance to show his pace and race over for a try that went unconverted.
But Wigan nudged two points ahead when Smith kicked a penalty for holding down by Adam Milner on John Bateman, who appeared to strike with his elbow and was lucky to get away with it.
To compound the Tigers’ frustration right on the hooter Wigan’s Manfredi dropped the ball and Gildart was offside in collecting it yet no penalty was forthcoming from Thaler.
Webster obviously disagreed and said something out of turn to the referee to promptly get himself sin-binned.
Wigan took advantage of their extra player to start the second half as Manfredi charged over from a slick move.
Cas survived the rest of the 10 minutes and at the end of the period pulled two points back as Gale kicked a penalty.
Back came Wigan when Charnley slid over for his second try, confirmed by the video referee.
A penalty for holding down gave Smith the chance to kick a penalty and move into what looked an unassailable lead at 28-14.
But back came the Tigers again with Webster finishing superbly after taking a pass from Dorn.
Webster and Ryan Hampshire were then inches short of the line with the Warriors showing tremendous goal-line defence.
The efforts paid off for Wigan when they awarded a controversial try. Gildart looked to knock-on from Smith’s high kick and the ball was hacked forward by Sam Powell who touched it down over the line. The video referee confirmed a try, but, of course, could not adjudicate on a knock-on.
Still Cas kept going and they narrowed their deficit back to six points as Dorn was denied a try by the video referee for possibly losing the ball as he stretched to get it over the line. Thaler signalled a try, but it was chalked off when he referred to the fourth official.
Two minutes later the Tigers were given a try by the video referee when Solomona produced a good finish after taking a pass from Dorn and Gale added a superb touchline conversion.
Their hopes of completing the comeback were effectively ended four minutes from time as Smith landed a drop-goal to make it 33-26.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries McShane, Solomona 2, Webster; goals Gale 5. Wigan: Tries; Charnley 2, S Tomkins, Manfredi, Powell; goals Smith 6; drop-goal Smith.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn; Flynn, Crooks, Webster, Solomona; McShane, Gale; Patrick, Milner, Millington, Moors, McMeeken, Jewitt. Subs: Tickle, Springer, Hampshire, Cook.
Wigan Warriors: S Tomkins, Manfredi, Sarginson, Gildart, Charnley; Williams, Smith; Crosby, Powell, Flower, Bateman, Isa, J Tomkins. Subs: Mossop, Tautai, Sutton, Burke.
Referee: Ben Thaler.