ALL those doubting Castleford Tigers’ title credentials were quickly silenced on Saturday night as they delivered a stunning record win over Super League champions Wigan Warriors that coach Daryl Powell rated their best yet.
England scrum-half Luke Gale only passed his head test on the morning of the game having initially failed it on Friday but he was in imperious form with a try and eight goals before heading off to Sydney for Saturday’s Test against Samoa.
Gale was well-supported by the likes of unstoppable second-row Mike McMeeken – set to make his international debut for England at the weekend – but also captain Michael Shenton who enjoyed his finest match so far this term.
Castleford had lost successive games at St Helens and Hull FC but returned to the top of the table with a win which was also their biggest Super League result against those opponents, eclipsing the 42-14 success two years ago.
Furthermore, Powell felt it was a more superior performance to the one that saw his dynamic side vanquish Leeds Rhinos 66-10 at Wheldon Road earlier this campaign.
“Leeds were missing a lot of players that night,” he said.
“Wigan had as well but they’ve got a deep squad and the players they had out there were high quality so for us to be as good as we were is pleasing.
“I didn’t expect us to get away from Wigan like that.
“We started the game so positively and defensively we were on the money so I’m obviously delighted with the way the players went about their work.
“I thought they were superb from start to finish. It was tough for Wigan losing a couple of blokes and, when they were down to 12, we hit them pretty hard and executed pretty well.”
This was the second time Powell’s side had beaten the World Club champions in barely three weeks and arguably their biggest statement yet that they are genuine title contenders.
Granted, Wigan did lose a raft of players to injury, including England stand-off George Williams who did not return for the second period and is now ruled out of the Samoa Test with a knee problem.
But by the time he left, Castleford, who lost their stand-off Benny Roberts to a first half injury that will keep him out of Thursday’s trip to Huddersfield, had already inflicted the damage.
Shenton made a searing break to send Adam Milner over after just 52 seconds and then the centre himself soon scored his fifth of the season.
Gale converted both for a 12-0 lead and, after Wigan’s Frank-Paul Nuuausala was yellow-carded for dissent, he stretched the lead further.
Wigan struck when down to 12 men via Sam Powell in the 28th minute but they would not score again.
Matt Cook and McMeeken quickly crossed for Gale’s sixth goal to make it 26-4 at the break.
Morgan Escare was then sin-binned for a high tackle, winger Greg Minikin diver over in the next set and Gale then got his 10th try of the season before Grant Millington, Jake Webster and Minikin again rounded things off, Paul McShane adding the final goal as Gale took a breather.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Millington, McShane, Massey, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Milner. Substitutes: Chase, Moors, Cook, Monaghan.
Wigan Warriors: Escare; Davies, Gelling, Burgess, Marshall; Williams, Powell; Nuuausala, McIlorum, Flower, J Tomkins, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Substitutes: Tautai, Sutton, Isa, Ganson.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).