The odds-on favourites Wigan saw the biggest Super League crowd for a year
at Central Park on Sunday, despite the freezing wind and the heavy rain.
Stuart Cummings, match referee, blew the whistle to begin what proved to
be a closer than expected encounter. It was never going to be a classic in
these wintry conditions, but both teams needed a good start to Super
The early part of the game saw solid tackling from both teams, and lots of
handling errors. The Tigers broke this deadlock after just 7 minutes. Ford
kicked a high ball to the right and Mather stole the loose ball to stride
over for a try. The video referee later confirmed the try for Wigan old
boy Barrie-Jon Mather and Brad Davies failed to convert. On 19 minutes
what seemed like an innocuous tackle by Mather had Simon Haughton being
helped from the field with a potentially dislocated shoulder, he didn't
return as a precaution. As time went by Wigan appeared to be caught in an
increasing hurry to get points onto the board, and this resulted in missed
passes and mistakes galore..
Hard and fierce tackling continued on the lush and muddy Central Park turf
until a full 30 minutes had gone by. Henry Paul then broke the Castleford
defence with an easy 4 points. Andy Farrell's huge skyward kick on the
fifth tackle was misjudged by full back Jason Flowers, who was under
pressure from no-one. Henry Paul in the right place at the right time
picked up the loose ball and placed it between the posts. The first half
ended 6 - 4, as the rain continued to stream down.
The second half began very much as the first, with the tackling being hard
and fair. The ball was slippery throughout and this did lead to a number
of turnovers. 5 minutes into this half Andy Farrell uncharacteristically
missed a 2-point penalty kick, awarded for stripping the ball, no doubt
due to the increasingly sodden pitch. At 55 minutes the continued hard
running by the forwards began to show rewards. Tony Smith, the man of the
match, at the end of an excellent set of six, stretched for line while
being tackled and the score was extended to 12 - 4. This meant Castleford
had to score twice, which was looking very unlikely against a very solid
and disciplined Wigan defence. A gash to Smiths wrist 10 minutes after his
try put him in the blood bin. A few stitches were required and a quick
repair saw Smith take the field again a few minutes later.
The game wasn't fully wrapped up until a minute from time. Prop forward
Neil Cowie, 5 yards from the Castleford goal line half lost the ball and
produced a grubber kick, which was angled back along the Wigan players.
This went straight to Tony Smith whose delight was evident from along way
out as he ran in unopposed to put down near the posts. The conversion
ended the game.
Overall, a game of good solid defence from both sides and plenty of
mistakes. The obvious problems of a slippery ball and torrential rain did
not detract from a tight and exciting encounter, although it will never be
remembered as a classic.
Wigan:- Radlinski, Robinson, Connolly, Moore, Gilmour, Paul,
Smith, Cowie, McCormack, Mestrov, Haughton, Betts, Farrell.
Subs:- Cassidy, O'Connor, Paul Johnson, Holgate.
Tries: Paul, Smith (2)
Goals: Farrell 3
Castleford:- Flowers, Gay, Mather, Critchley, Ellison, Davis,
Ford, Sykes, Russell, McNell, Shick, Tallec, Vowles.
Subs:- Smith, Harland, Orr, Maloney.