Castleford Tigers came agonisingly close to pulling off an amazing comeback at Wigan Warriors as they lost out by two points in a real game of two halves at the DW Stadium.
After a dreadful first half they trailed 20-0 at the break, but stormed back after the break and in the end were unlucky to lose 24-22 as Wigan’s only points of the second half were from kicks presented to them by poor decisions from referee James Child.
What could go wrong did go wrong in the first half for the Tigers as they trailed 20-0 and it could have been more.
Defensively they were weak, attack-wise there was a lack of possession and when they had the ball they lost the ball too often.
They were not helped as Wigan got every decision in the first 20 minutes and no luck with kicks ricocheting off Cas and back to home players, but they did not really deserve any fortune.
Wigan were ahead from the fourth minute when Liam Marshall was first to reach a kick in behind the Tigers defence by George Williams, controlled the ball and went over for the first try.
A second followed as Gabriel Hamlin charged through a weak tackle to score and Sam Tomkins’ conversion made it 10-0.
Cas finally had an attack, but it ended when Jake Trueman’s grubber kick was batted out for a goalline drop-out.
From the next set the ball was moved well right and Joe Wardle attempted to charge over only to lose the ball right on the line.
It was soon back to Wigan domination, however, as Williams’ kick forced a drop-out and from the next set Dan Sarginson sold a dummy to open up a gap and race over.
The Cas defence cracked again when Ryan Sutton reached out to score after a grubber kick bounced unfortunately off Oliver Holmes. With Tomkins off ill, Morgan Escare took over kicking duties and landed the conversion to make it 20-0.
Cas did go close just before half-time as Mitch Clark was held up over the line, but they trailed by 20 points at the break.
After stern words from head coach Daryl Powell the Tigers came out more determined for the second half and put their first points on the board when Trueman raced through a half-gap on the last tackle for a well taken try.
Escare nudged Wigan further ahead with a penalty goal after a controversial high tackle decision against Mike McMeeken. But back came the Tigers as James Clare beat Marshall in the air to catch Ellis’s kick and drop over the line.
Ellis goaled from the touchline then his high kick forced a goal-line drop-out as more pressure followed.
Another Ellis kick bounced off a post and Paul McShane pounced to score the Tigers’ third try. With Ellis converting it was really game on at 22-16.
Escare’s drop-goal hit the crossbar as Wigan became more desperate to put the game to bed.
They were given a huge helping hand, however, six minutes from time as referee Child gave another poor high tackle decision against McMeeken and Tomkins, back on the field, slotted the penalty goal to open up an eight-point gap.
The importance of the controversial decision could be seen when right at the end Mitch Clark got on the end of a grubber kick that was misjudged by Tomkins to score a try that was goaled by Ellis.
There was no time for a restart so the final score was 24-22 to a relieved Wigan.
Scorers - Wigan: Tries Marshall, Hamlin, Sarginson, Sutton; goals Tomkins 2, Escare 2. Castleford: Tries Clare, Trueman, McShane, Clark; goals Ellis 3.
Wigan Warriors: Tomkins; Davies, Sarginson, Isa, Marshall; Williams, Leuluai; Navarrete, Powell, Flower, Greenwood, Bateman, Hamlin. Subs: Clubb, Sutton, Escare, Partington.
Castleford Tigers: Eden; Gill, Wardle, Shenton, Clare; Ellis, Trueman; Watts. McShane, Sene-Lefao, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: Webster, Moors, Milner, Clark.
Referee: James Child.