Fresh from lifting their twentieth Challenge Cup last weekend in London, the Wigan Warriors travelled to Castleford to take on the Tigers in the knowledge that a big win would see them move above both Huddersfield and Catalans into second spot, and a win of any description would see them up to third.
Lee Radford´s Tigers side were looking to consolidate their position in the top six and put some breathing space between themselves and Hull KR in seventh, however, a heavy loss could see them drop into the bottom half of the table on points difference.
Wigan moved Jai Field into the halves in place of the injured Cade Cust and John Bateman and Morgan Smithies were also missing from the side which triumphed last week. The home side were without the services of Mamo, Qareqare and Blair but could still field a decent seventeen.
The Tigers hit the front on six minutes with a delightful ´over the top´ pass from Jake Trueman to Greg Eden with the winger coasting over of the overlap. Gareth O´Brien added the conversion from wide for a 6-0 advantage, the Tigers looked the hungrier in the early exchanges.
A Warriors 40-20 from Harry Smith on twelve went to waste as Liam Marshall knocked on when trying to collect a poor pass.
O´Brien failed to take advantage of a penalty on eighteen as he skewed the ball wide. But on twenty-three a sensational Kenny Edwards try, shrugging his way out of three attempted tackles, saw the second rower go on from twenty metres out. This time O´Brien added the conversion for 12-0.
Wigan had a try ruled out on twenty-eight after Bevan French´s pass to Marshall was ruled as forward by referee Child as the Tigers breathed a sigh of relief.
A brain explosion from Mahe Fonua, kicking out at Liam Farrell in the tackle, saw the Tigers centre sin-binned with a few seconds over ten minutes remaining in the half. Two minutes later Marshall was finally in for the Warriors as he took a quick pass from French to score on the overlap down the left wing. Harry Smith pulled his conversion attempt across the front of the posts, Wigan still eight adrift at the interval.
It was all Wigan pressure at the start of the second half and with four minutes on the clock a neat inside kick from Marshall was collected by French to score from five metres out as a confused Tigers defence stood and watched. Smith added the conversion, Wigan now just two behind and it looked ominous for the home side.
On forty-nine the Warriors hit the front as they switched play to the right with Abbas Miski taking a fast pass from Farrell to go outside the Castleford winger and score in the corner. Smith converted from the touchline for a 16-12 lead.
Castleford had imploded as they conceded a third Wigan try in a devastating nine-minute spell with Marshall again taking a French miss-out pass to go over in the corner. Smith couldn´t add the conversion but the Cherry & White´s had an eight-point lead.
Just after the hour mark Jake Bibby pushed his way over the line and slammed the ball into the turf after a five-metre barnstorming run. Smith added the conversion for 26-12, twenty-six unanswered points for the Warriors.
Three minutes from time Field broke the Tigers line before finding Farrell with a short pass, the Wigan stalwart jigging his way through the defence to get in on the scoring action. Smith added the conversion for a final score of 32-12.
It really was a game of two halves, the Tigers totally dominated in the opening forty but the reverse for the second half with a devastating Wigan side scoring six unanswered tries, five of them in a scintillating second half. Wigan up to third and snapping at the heels of the Dragons and the Saints, Castleford in danger of dropping back out of the six should results not go in their favour tomorrow afternoon.
Castleford Tigers: Hampshire, Eden (T), Fonua (SB on 30), Faraimo, Olpherts, Trueman, O´Brien (2G), Watts, McShane, Griffin, Edwards (T), Lawler, Westerman. Subs: Milner, Massey, Smith, Matagi.
Wigan Warriors: French (T), Miski (T), Thornley, Bibby (T), Marshall (2T), Field, Smith (4G), Singleton, Powell, Byrne, Farrell (T), Isa, Ellis. Subs: Partington, Mago, Shorrocks, Havard.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, (SB), 12-4 : HT : 12-8, 12-10, 12-14, 12-16, 12-20, 12-24, 12-26, 12-30, 12-32 : FT.
Lead Exchange: Castleford – Wigan.
Referee: James Child.