Tigers defeated by table toppers

Posted: Saturday 29th August 2020 - 6:23 PM


Kick-off came on the back of another unusual week for the Tigers as they were once again hit by fixture changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this time stepping into the breach to take on the league-leading Warriors at short notice, with Wigan’s original opponents Catalans withdrawing from this weekend’s action following positive coronavirus tests in the Dragons camp.

That meant a Tigers side originally due to have a bye this weekend were called into action at the Halliwell Jones Stadium and they were unable to maintain their charge against a more ruthless Warriors side despite opening up a 12-0 advantage midway through the first half.

Both sides started the contest solidly with some early handbags between opposite half backs Danny Richardson and Jackson Hastings setting the tone for a confrontational opening 10 minutes. Wigan – boosted by the return of senior players Thomas Leuluai, George Burgess and Ben Flower this week – had the better of the territory early on without being able to find a way through a solid defensive line from the Fords and eventually it was the Tigers who opened the scoring towards the end of the first quarter with two quickfire tries before Wigan hit back.

First, a pinpoint high kick from Jake Trueman set up back-to-back sets on the opposition line, the ball initially bouncing back to Oliver Holmes only for the back rower to be unluckily stopped from grabbing the game’s first try by the post pad. However, from the resulting possession, Cas went to the left edge and good work from Richardson and Trueman created the space for full back Gareth O’Brien to dummy through a gap for his first try for the club.

Richardson converted and was on target again shortly afterwards as Nathan Massey this time barged over from close range after some more stubborn defence had forced a Wigan mistake inside their own territory.

However, the Cherry and Whites responded almost immediately with a spell of sustained pressure of their own that brought about three tries in a 10-minute period to turn the contest on its head, Sam Powell, Joe Burgess and Flower all finding the line to give a 16-12 score line at the break as Cas struggled to wrestle the momentum away from a slick Wigan outfit.

The second half began with a long stoppage in play as James Clare was stretchered off with a neck injury that saw Morgan Smithies sin binned for a crusher tackle after just three minutes. It forced Daryl Powell into a reshuffle as Oliver Holmes and Michael Shenton moved outwards and Jesse Sene-Lefao came on from the bench, but Cas initially showed no ill-effects from now having two forwards playing in the centre position as an attack down their right flank saw O’Brien send Derrell Olpherts in at the corner with a lovely cut-out pass to level the scores.

However, with 30 minutes left on the clock, the Tigers struggled to find the precision needed for the rest of the encounter and instead it was the Warriors who landed the decisive blows. Zak Hardaker kicked an easy penalty to nudge the Warriors back in front as Smithies returned to the field and back rower Liam Farrell then found a gap in the defence to open up a two-score advantage heading into the last quarter.

Cas did have a brief opportunity to reply after coming up with possession from an unexpected short kick-off but Paul McShane opted for a grubber kick on the third tackle that bobbled in Wigan’s direction and 60 seconds later the game was all but put to bed as Harry Smith’s 40/20 paved the way for Joe Bullock to crash over next to the posts to take it out to 30-16.

Skipper Shenton, now playing on the wing, got a score back for his team as he touched down Trueman’s grubber kick with six minutes remaining but it wasn’t enough to get Cas back into the contest.

Full Time: Wigan Warriors 30-22 Castleford Tigers

 

Wigan Warriors

French, Marshall, Hardaker, Bibby, J Burgess, Leuluai, Hastings, Bullock, Powell, Byrne, Isa, Farrell, Havard

Interchange

G Burgess, Flower, Smith, Smithies

Tries: Powell, J Burgess, Flower, Farrell, Bullock

Conversions: Hardaker (4/5)

Penalty: Hardaker (1/1)

Sin Bin: Smithies

Castleford Tigers

O’Brien, Olpherts, Foster, Shenton, Clare, Trueman, Richardson, Watts, McShane, Griffin, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey

Interchange                                       

Millington, Milner, Sene-Lefao, Smith

Tries: O’Brien, Massey, Olpherts, Shenton

Conversions: Richardson (3/4)

 

*Match report by Matt Holden

**Photography by SWPix

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