Cas come up short in Wigan loss

Posted: Thursday 22nd April 2021 - 8:00 PM

A top of the table clash saw Castleford fall just short in a bruising encounter at the DW Stadium as a brace of tries from Derrell Olpherts wasn’t enough to overturn an impressive Wigan Warriors side.

The sides came into the game each with 100% records, having won three league games from three, and with both clubs harbouring silverware ambitions, this was to be an early season marker for two contending teams to state their intentions.

The Tigers’ were forced into a few changes from their comfortable win over Leigh in Round Three, with Gareth O’Brien being ruled out through injury, allowing Jordan Turner to demonstrate his versatility by lining up in the halves. Elsewhere Cheyse Blair returned for the suspended Jesse Sene-Lefao and Tyla Hepi started at prop, with Brad Martin on the bench in line to make his first appearance of the season.

Adrian Lam’s Warriors outfit were coming off an impressive win over Leeds last time out and were buoyed by the return of superstar Bevan French, but the agile Aussie would have to be content with a place on the wing, due to the flying form of Zak Hardaker at fullback. Meanwhile young Harry Smith started for the Cherry and Whites at half back, looking to further deliver on the promise he has shown so far this season.

Cagey early stages allowed both sides to get a feel for one another, with the dangerous French marshalled well in open field by Olpherts and Mata’utia, whilst Evalds was as solid as he had been all season underneath the high ball as Hastings looked to pin the Tigers back. Wigan had the first real attack of the game after only six minutes, but a slip at the crucial moment meant the chance went begging for the hosts.

Through the early stages, the power of the Wigan runners was giving Cas something to think about, as they found themselves on the back foot of several sets, but solid tackling from Hepi, alongside Oliver Holmes and Liam Watts was frustrating their opposition.

A real opportunity came Cas’ way on the back of some exquisite skill from Jordan Turner, who saw plenty of space on the 4th tackle and slotted a perfect dribbling kick over the touchline for a 40/20 attempt – the follow up set was cut short due to a forward pass but the 2021 arrival was already demonstrating the all-round prowess which has made him such an important part of Daryl Powell’s side already.

Building on the back of this, a penalty conceded by the Warriors helped give the Tigers some breathing room, and after a great offload by Hepi, the visitors were on the front foot, with a well worked move down the right side seeing Evalds find Mata’utia, who fed the in-form Olpherts for the game’s first score. With no Danny Richardson or O’Brien, it was left to Paul McShane to take over the kicking duties, which was no trouble to the Man of Steel, nailing the touchline conversion.

Where they did make mistakes, the Tigers looked to make amends with determined defence and canny play: Turner’s early kicks off the floor in particular were keeping the visitors from gaining any real field position.

Over halfway through the first period, Wigan struck back with a long range score: A midfield break from Hastings threatened as he looked to find the supporting French, but scrambling Tigers’ defence helped delay the move, only for on the next phase, Smith threatened to go himself, stopped only by a diving ankle tap from Millington, however the youngsters’ speculative offload landed in the hands of the waiting Hardaker, who rounded the posts to score and then convert his own try, leaving the scores level.

However the away side remained undeterred, and made a series of Wigan infringements tell as they marched down the field shortly after conceding, with McShane electing to kick a routine goal, 30 yards out and restore the lead.

Despite taking the lead, the pressure that Adrian Lam’s team had gradually been exerting on Castleford throughout the half was beginning to tell as the Fords struggled more and more to make metres as the hooter drew closer. With another set threatening Cas’ line, the Cherry and Whites recycled well and went through the hands to find French on the left wing and he outpaced the covering defenders to score his first try of the season shortly before half time.

The second half began in much the same fashion, with Daryl Powell’s side under the pump from Wigan’s rampaging runners in the middle. A penalty against them for an alleged ball strip doing little to help their cause as the hosts pushed for another score.

Their defence was equal to the task though, and looking to hold off back-to-back sets on their own line, Greg Eden did well to rise high and gather a speculative kick and race nearly 60 metres to flip the field for his side. The Tigers went from side-to-side looking to work an opening, and on the last, Trueman’s kick was palmed back to Mata’utia who found his winger again to put Olpherts in for his second score. McShane pulling the kick just wide to leave the scores level once more.

This score helped provide an injection of confidence for the visiting Tigers, but they were undone once again by the combination of Hardaker and French. The former’s surging break helped set the Warriors on the front foot, and then with the Cas defence in disarray, an over the top kick out wide from Hastings was collected by French to dot down and give Wigan a four point cushion.

As the game entered the last 20 minutes, Wigan looked to turn the screw and take advantage of a fatigued Tigers’ side: A high shot giving the Warriors an easy exit after a weighted Adam Milner kick had trapped the hosts back.

Looking to chase the game, the Fords weren’t their chances – penalties giving themselves good position, however they were unable to convert the ill-discipline into points, with kicks from Turner and Trueman both coming to nothing.

But for all their fatigue, the Fords still found themselves only one score down entering the last ten minutes of play: A Hepi offload again was the catalyst for a Cas attack, allowing McShane to scamper forward and orchestrate several plays just a few yards from the Warriors’ line, but Olpherts was smothered on the last short of the line.

An adjudged ball steal as desperation set in allowed Wigan to camp out the last few minutes in Cas territory, and a six-again call hurt the Fords as they desperately looked to steel themselves on their line once again, however the impressive Sam Powell helped seal the game with a trademark burrowing score and condemn the Tigers to their first defeat of the season.

Full Time: Wigan Warriors 22-12 Castleford Tigers

Wigan Warriors
Hardaker, French, Farrell, Isa, Bibby, Hastings, Smith, Clubb, Powell, Singleton, Smithies, Bateman, Partington

Shorrocks, Bullock, Byrne, Havard

Tries: Hardaker, French (2), Powell

Conversions: Hardaker (3/4)

Castleford Tigers
Evalds, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Eden, Trueman, Turner, Watts, McShane, Hepi, Holmes, Blair, Massey

Millington, Milner, Bienek, Martin

Tries: Olpherts (2)

Conversions: McShane (1/2)

Goals: McShane (1/1)

*Match report by Sam Armstrong

**Match photography by Melanie Allatt Photography

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