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Castleford Tigers fail to find a way past strong Wigan defence in semi-final

Castleford Tigers failed to score a point for the second week running as they produced an error-ridden display to lose their Betfred Super League semi-final 14-0 at Wigan Warriors.

The home side’s defence was outstanding as they defended their line well in the second half and made the Tigers work for every metre they made.

Dejected Castleford Tigers players at the end of their semi-final defeat to Wigan. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Dejected Castleford Tigers players at the end of their semi-final defeat to Wigan. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Cas let themselves down with some bad handling that resembled their display in last year’s Grand Final, but they came up against opponents who were hugely pumped up to get to Old Trafford.

The first half was a huge disappointment for the Tigers as they struggled to keep possession and never really got going.

Wigan made the faster start and early pressure saw Joe Greenwood held up over the line.

The Tigers defence cracked when Thomas Leuluai produced a powerful burst from close range to take three Cas players over the line with him as he scored. Sam Tomkins’ goal made it 6-0.

Castleford had a let off when Tomkins sent a penalty kick wide and slowly began to find their feet with Ben Roberts’ grubber kick earning a goalline drop-out

The closest they came to putting points on the board in the half came when a handling error from Wigan inside their own 20 gave the visitors a great attacking chance. But Paul McShane lost the ball in a tackle as he tried to reach out to ground it over the line and the opportunity was lost.

More mistakes littered the rest of the half and Wigan inched a further point clear right at the end of the half as Tomkins landed a drop-goal.

Cas started the second half better, but a huge play saw them denied as Dom Manfredi did well to be first to reach a kick through and managed to get back over the goal-line. He was then awarded a dubious penalty after being tackled by Adam Milner and the next set saw another penalty awarded for a high tackle by Jesse Sene-Lefao.

The decisions proved a big help as on the last tackle Wigan ran the ball near the visitors’ line and Tomkins skipped over the line for a try he could not convert.

Cas still showed spirit, however, as Milner gave them hope with a strong break down the middle. The ball was moved on by Luke Gale, Grant Millington and Michael Shenton to Greg Eden, but as he found space tight he chose to kick ahead and Manfredi again got back to save the hosts, at the expense of a drop-out.

The next set ended when Joe Wardle’s pass out to right winger James Clare was deemed forward.

Clare then lost the ball near the line after collecting Peter Mata’utia’s pass and another chance went begging as unbelievable cover defence denied Eden as he looked to go in at the corner.

From this point the Tigers’ spirit seemed to wilt and Tomkins kicked a penalty to take the lead out to 13-0.

Wigan dominated the closing stages as the error count went up again from Cas. Greenwood was held up over the line late on before Tomkins kicked his second drop-goal to make the final score 14-0.

Scorers - Wigan: Tries Leuluai, Tomkins; goals Tomkins 2; drop-goals Tomkins 2.

Wigan Warriors: Tomkins; Manfredi, Gildart, Sarginson, Davies; Williams, Leuluai; Navarrete, Powell, Flower, Greenwood, Bateman, O’Loughlin. Subs: Escare, Sutton, Clubb, Farrell.

Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia; Clare, Wardle, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: Webster, Milner, Sene-Lefao, Clark.

Referee: Ben Thaler

Half-time: 7-0.

Attendance: 13,461