In my 33 years on this earth, Wigan have
only ever lost three Challenge Cup ties in Wigan (I don't
count the game at Leigh last year). Those losses were
against Castleford in 1983, Castleford in 1986 and
Castleford in 2014. Granted the first two of those
victories were when I was months old and three years old
but given this record I kept my expectancy muted ahead of
In that match two years ago Castleford
won with a superb defensive display to keep Wigan down to
four points. Ahead of this one I felt that if Cas were to
repeat the feat that they would need to do it again with
top draw defence.
My gut feeling though pre match was that
Castleford wouldn't have that kind of effort in their
locker and for that reason I was confident of Wigan
victory. I mean Daryl Powell's side actually have Super
League's worst defensive record and in the first half here
Wigan were excellent in the first half
and it was off the back of a very high completion rate of
88%. Sam Tomkins then pulled the strings in creating the
first try for Dan Sarginson down the right before scoring
himself by stepping past poor defence by Grant Millington.
In cup ties conversions are massive and Smith set a good
tone with the first try being converted off the touchline,
the second try was bang in front for 12-0.
That was after 14 minutes and for a
spell after that the visitors had chances but Wigan's
defence held firm and then Wigan came out of that with two
Josh Charnley at the double with two
tries, the second of which saw him wrestling over from a
metre out. Smith may have missed the second conversion but
he hit the first off the touchline and that sent Wigan 22-0
up at the oranges.
A score like that should be game over
but Wigan's second half display took that far too
literally. The intensity fell away, as did the set
completion, and they practically invited Castleford to
launch a comeback.
Defence was still good though because it
took Castleford 19 second half minutes to finally score
with Luke Dorn being sent under the posts for 22-6.
Had Castleford got the next try it would
have been really interesting but any potential of Wigan
having to sweat over the line was extinguished with a try
from Dom Manfredi on 65 minutes. I say try but the the
reality was that it was never grounded in a million years
and should never have been awarded. Video Referee Rob Hicks
decided he "may have got a finger tip on it" and that was
enough to stick with referee Chris Campbell's on field
call. I think it was 99.9% no try and 0.1% a try and find
it staggering that Hicks gave it. That call didn't decide
this match but if that decision had decided a final it was
be an absolute disgrace.
Smith missed the extras but at 26-6 the
tie was now over with the clock defeating Castleford as
much as the scoreboard. They did have the last say though
with a try from Ben Crooks in the final minute but the job
had been done by Wigan long before and they are once again
just 80 minutes away from Wembley.