Fresh off the news that Adrian Lam and Shaun Edwards would be returning to the club in 2019 and 2020, Wigan Warriors welcomed the Castleford Tigers to the DW Stadium for a tough start to the Super 8s for both sides.
A strong Warriors defence and a sloppy Tigers start allowed Wigan to gain repeat set after repeat set in the first five minutes, and they were the first to score, as a 4th tackle kick from George Williams caught the tired Castleford defenders unawares and Liam Marshall pounced on the loose bouncing ball to score on the left hand edge. Wigan 4-0 up after seven minutes.
Wigan were winning the possession and territorial battle in the first 10 minutes after multiple repeat sets as the Tigers failed to complete their own as every time they broke free or looked to gain an advantage they knocked the ball on.
Finally, the pressure told and Gabriel Hamlin easily ran over Castleford full-back Greg Eden to score by the posts. Sam Tomkins converted this time to make the score 10-0 to the Warriors.
A third try for Wigan was nearly scored just minutes later through Marshall but the TMO ruled that Joe Greenwood knocked the ball on as he battled with Kieran Gill for the loose ball.
Castleford attempted to score a try of their own in reply but a Joe Wardle knock on over the line that kept them scoreless.
That was all the pressure that the Tigers managed to build however, as Wigan forced a goal-line drop-out, and then a Liam Watts swinging arm gave the Warriors the ball just 35 metres out.
A sweeping play from right to left on the third play of this set created an overlap for Wigan and Dan Sarginson took advantage of that as he slid over the line to extend the lead to 14.
Morgan Escare missed his conversion attempt as Tomkins left the field after an earlier knock.
In the following set a knock on from James Clare allowed Wigan to reset 20 minutes out from the Tigers line, after the free play came to nothing.
Once again the Castleford defence couldn’t hold on as Ryan Sutton picked up the loose ball from a fifth tackle kick from Thomas Leuluai and crashed over from 5 metres out. Escare added the extras for a 20-0 lead to the Warriors.
Wigan conceded three penalties on the bounce as Cas started 35 metres out but just did not have enough energy to get through the Cherry and Whites defence to leave the score Wigan Warriors 20 Castleford Tigers 0 at half-time.
After the re-start the Tigers seem to slow the play down and were very assured from the off as they gained momentum. There patience paid dividends though as Jake Trueman gathered the ball at first-receiver and showed pure pace to squeeze through the Warriors defence on the outside to get Castleford on the board.
Jamie Ellis missed the extras to leave the score at 20-4.
Cas were back to conceding penalties soon after though as three repeat sets from Wigan gave them the opportunity to add another two points which Escare did.
Wigan gifted the ball to Castleford through a Sam Powell knock-on just 10 metres from their own line and a scrum gave the Tigers a good platform for the perfect set as a high hanging fifth tackle kick from Ellis was plucked out of the air by James Clare, above the head of Marshall, to score in the right hand corner. Ellis converted to make the score to bring Castleford within two converted tries.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, the temperatures started to boil over with some handbags in the middle of the park after Adam Milner believed Wigan debutant Ollie Partington caught in high, forcing him to knock the ball on.
Cas pressured Wigan again after the fracas and the Warriors defence fell to pieces after a Jamie Ellis grubber was touched down by Paul McShane by the posts which was confirmed by TMO Chris Kendall. Cas were now only 6 points behind with 20 minutes to go.
Both teams upped the intensity again as the tide turned Castleford’s way with Wigan making just as many errors as the Tigers did in the first half.
Wigan did manage a drop goal attempt through Morgan Escare but it rattled back off the cross-bar after good kick pressure from Cas.
The back and forth continued as Castleford pushed for a winner and Wigan tried to close the game out.
And Wigan attempted to do just that after a dangerous tackle by Mike McMeeken was spotted by James Child, and Sam Tomkins added the extra 2 points as Wigan lead 24-16 with only four minutes remaining.
Castleford’s early mistakes in the first half were taking their toll as their tired bodies laboured around the field trying to limit the self-inflicted damage but the second half victory was just not enough as Mitch Clark scored a last second on the hooter consolation as Wigan knew the game was won.
Jamie Ellis slotted the extras as the game finished Wigan Warriors 24 Castleford Tigers 22.
My Man of the Match: Jamie Ellis – Rarely put a foot wrong for Cas and his missed conversion was the only difference between the two sides.
Sky Man of the Match: Paul McShane – Controlled the game well for Cas after the break and looked for the right option all night, even managed to grab a try of his own.
Tomkins, Davies, Isa, Sarginson, Marshall, Williams, Leuluai, Navarrete, Powell, Flower, Greenwood, Bateman, Hamlin.
Subs: Escare, Clubb, Sutton, Partington
Tries: Marshall, Hamlin, Sarginson, Sutton
Goals: Tomkins (2/3) Escare 2/3)
Eden, Gill, Wardle, Shenton, Clare, Ellis, Trueman, Watts, McShane, Sene-Lefao, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey
Subs: Webster, Moors, Milner, Clark
Tries: Trueman, Clare, McShane, Clark
Goals: Ellis (3/4)