CASTLEFORD Tigers coach Terry Matterson (pictured) accused the Rugby Football League of putting players’ welfare at risk after forcing his side to play their rearranged fixture at Wigan Warriors on Wednesday night.
The Tigers defied the absence of 11 regulars to push the champions all the way before going down 26-16 at the DW Stadium, a result that saw the Warriors go top of the engage Super League.
Matterson was proud of his players’ efforts but fiercely critical of the League’s insistence in playing the match - postponed from February because of Wigan’s involvement in the World Club Challenge - in midweek rather than waiting for a possible blank weekend in August.
“I believe the welfare of the players was compromised by playing the game tonight,” said Matterson.
“Wigan asked for this day and Wigan got this day. We asked to play after the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup. I’m not planning on it but there’s a chance both teams could be out of the competition then.
“They said the DW Stadium wasn’t available but I don’t know when the football season starts again.
“I am worried about the welfare of the players. We’ve got to back up in four days - it’s another Easter for us - and we haven’t got a squad big enough. The cards are stacked against us.”
Castleford were without 10 first-teamers through injury, including past and present captains Ryan Hudson and Danny Orr, as well as former Wigan player Martin Aspinwall who is serving a jail sentence, and they suffered more injury woes during the match.
Veteran prop Nick Fozzard went off with a calf problem after only seven minutes, paving the way for loan signing Rob Parker to make his debut, while fellow front rower Jake Emmitt was carried off just before the end with knee ligament damage.
Yet the Tigers defied the odds to outplay the champions for long periods and twice held the lead before crucially conceding three tries in a nine-minute spell early in the second half.
“It was a gutsy performance,” said Matterson, who was critical of video referee Phil Bentham’s decision to disallow a try by Brett Ferres on the hour.
“I thought we couldn’t get a 50-50 all night. Brett Ferres got the ball down and should have been given benefit of the doubt.
“The guys came out and had a real dig. I’m really proud of them. We had 11 players out and lost a front rower in the first five minutes. I thought the scoreline was stiff on us. I couldn’t ask for any more effort.”