Well this match followed the pattern of the previous play off games this weekend. Very flat game with a low crowd, but Wigan are through and that's all that matters. A game with a total of 32 handling errors (16 each) was never going to be pretty and Wigan will need to improve on that next week.
For me this match saw Wigan start badly and finish badly but they got enough points in the middle part of the game to see them home. Bit like the Hull FC game earlier in the month, the bench really changed things and won us the game.
Both sides though started poorly, although Wigan could have taken the lead in the third minute with Harrison Hansen held up over the line. Two minutes later we looked to have opened them up out wide but Sean O'Loughlin put in a terrible kick that was easily snaffled up by James Evans.
Two penalties, one for an high tackle by Andy Coley and the other for not standing square, saw Richard Owen go within a bugs dick of scoring on 9 minutes but George Carmont somehow scrambled back. Wigan survived after Michael Shenton threw a pass into touch.
On 12 minutes Wigan looked to be in good attacking position after receiving their first penalty for a flop but Andy Coley soon knocked on. He had a poor night Coley, making four or five errors that I can remember.
Next chance came on 16 minutes. Sean O'Loughlin sent a bullet pass out wide to Pat Richards who decided to kick and chase, but his kick was far too deep. Not really what was needed on tackle 4. Wigan really need to learn how to build pressure.
Soon after that Wigan conceded their fourth penalty of the game after a high shot from Mike McIlorum, who started at hooker tonight ahead of Riddell. That got Castleford attacking Wigan's line and again Richard Owen was close to going over but McIlorum kept him out. A nice dink from Sherwin forced George Carmont into being trapped in goal but the drop out ended up with a knock on.
Bang on 20 minutes coach Brian Noble interchanged Paul Prescott, Mike McIlorum and Andy Coley for Stuart Fielden, Mark Riddell and Feka Paleaaesina. Instantly Wigan looked far more sharper. Five drives went in before a last tackle bomb to the left corner from Thomas Leuluai was batted back by Pat Richards for Harrison Hansen to touch down. Bit of deliberation by video ref Phil Bentham but the try was given. So just 80 seconds after the triple substitutions, Wigan had taken the lead. Richards hit a good conversion as well to make it 6-0.
The trio had definitely made an impact but a big error came on 27 minutes with Riddell kicking out on the full from half way. That error went unpunished and so did an incorrect play the ball from Fielden a minute later, even though Cas forced a drop out. A great drop out as well from Pat who kicked it 80 metres, just like last week at Huddersfield.
Wigan would increased their lead on 32 minutes after getting good territory following a high tackle penalty against Liam Higgins. It was a carbon copy of the first try. On the last Leuluai bomb to the left wing and Richards collected and offloaded for the try. This time George Carmont was the benefactor and the conversion made it 12-0. These kicks would prove vital at the back end of the game.
That was it until half time although perhaps Ryan McGoldrick should have been penalised for a high shot on Cameron Phelps which also saw him look to be choking him whilst on the ground? I think he deserved sin binning for his embarrassing pony tail but no penalty given by the ref.
Wigan's first half set completion had been just 45%, compared to 67% for Cas - so to be 12-0 up was pretty pleasing. You did feel first try of the second half would be enough to win and I suppose it did turn out that way. The first score came in the form of a penalty goal kicked by Richards after a grapple tackle by James Evans on Sam Tomkins.
I get the feeling though Wigan don't know how to play when leading. They know how to chase games down but they never keep things calm and simply. After that penalty they knocked on giving Cas an immediate chance to reply but luckily they wasted that chance with a kick from prop Mitchell Sargeant for some reason.
Wigan went on the chase up the other end with good terriotry after a high tackle on the last by McGoldrick on Phelps again. It was a bit wide to take the two so Wigan tapped but immediately knocked on by Coley.
A third try of the game would come though on 52 minutes after a kick to the left wing by O'Loughlin for Richards to chase forced a drop out. From that Sam Tomkins and Phelps combined to send Amos Roberts racing over in the right corner. Richards couldn't convert off the touchline but at 18-0 the game looked secure.
Like I said though Wigan just didn't play clever in the last 25 minutes. Sam Tomkins was deemed to have knocked on two metres from his own line after a kick from Brent Sherwin. Sam shook his head after the replay on the screen but Ian Smith gave Cas the ball. We defended five good attempts at the line but on the last O'Loughlin but in a stupid push whilst marking at the play the ball. So another set to defend. First shot of the line saw Joe Westerman held up. Wigan got them on the last again and a dink to the corner trapped Roberts one metre out in the corner.
Now Wigan had seen out 12 tackles on the line but two minutes later they would finally break out resilience. After a further six tackles had been defended, Cameron Phelps knocked on a bomb from Sherwin under his own posts. The pressure became too much although try scorer Craig Huby was able to take advantage of some poor defence from Phelps and Joel Tomkins. Easy conversion from Westerman made it 18-6 with 19 minutes to go.
Now all Wigan needed to do to halt any chance of a comeback was to kick a drop goal. In the Challenge Cup Semi Wigan had full momentum having thought back from 32-8 to 32-26 but Lee Briers knew what to do. First chance he got he nailed a drop goal and all that momentum was finished in an instant. We didn't do that tonight though.
We didn't complete sets well either with another knock on from Coley gifted Cas possession 30 metres out. Luckily they knocked on, then they gave Wigan a penalty after Higgins hit Paul Prescott with a high tackle. So Wigan had the ball in their half and just needed to drive, drive, drive, drive, drive for the posts and slot one over to end the contest. But despite being in a perfect position after three tackles, Wigan looked to go out wide and Sam Tomkins knocked on a pass from Riddell.
The next chance to kick a drop goal came after another high tackle penalty, this time against ex Wigan player Stuart Jones, with Phelps was on the receiving end again. Would they kick the one point this time? Well they attempted but Cas defended well in fairness. They trapped Sam Tomkins before Phelps' effort went way wide. For me though earlier in the set their were too many unnecessary passes out wide. Just keep it simple and drive at the posts! It was frustrating the hell out of me!
A third chance came on 71 minutes but again they went passing out wide and O'Loughlin threw forward to Pat Richards. We didn't need 4 points, one would have done!
My frustration grew when Cas went on the attack again. An interference penalty was given under the posts but James Evans knocked on out wide. Driving out Wigan just needed to complete the set but Phelps knocked on twenty from his own line. It was suicidal rugby and they made that error pay with Westerman being sent over by Owen. He also converted to make it 18-12.
For me the Tigers were never good enough to win this game but Wigan's poor inability to kill this game off was looking to cost them dearly. We really missed an experience head to just keep things calm and composed.
When Wigan restarted their was 3 and half minutes left for Cas to force extra time. On the last tackle they tried to run it down the left but Wigan's defence was too good. Michael Shenton put a bomb in the air, Phelps missed it (but looked to have been taken out in the air to me), which allowed Shenton to regather, he kicked again out towards the right wing but with two players chasing with no defenders to beat, the ball thankfully skipped out into touch.
Two minutes to go from the scrum and finally a bit of composure from Wigan. Five drives and with them not being in drop goal range Sam Tomkins put in an excellent kick which trapped Cas close to their own line. A minute was left now and they had to force the pass. On the last Sherwin for some reason didn't kick, instead putting in a poor pass that Leuluai easily gobbled up. Ten seconds to go Wigan get hold of it, hooter went and thank **** for that!
Not a clever last twenty for me. One regular encouraged me to criticised the ref in this report but I look at our own poor play. Ok the luck did go the way of the opposition in the last twenty but we show have killed them off ourselves with a simple drop goal. The inexperience showed. No one stood up and took control. Can't expect Sam Tomkins to do it at his age. Thomas Leuluai perhaps needs to hold his hand up. He is the experience half back after all.
Noble summed it up with his comments. "Our issue is with the ball" and thats it to a tee. We can defend, we just need to be a bit more clever in attack.
Anyway it should be a cracking trip to Hull KR next Saturday - bring it on!