IF BEING confident against Wigan Warriors is bordering on disrespectful, actually beating them must really be taking the micky.
Maybe that will give Warriors a bit of extra incentive for Friday’s Super League rematch, but Tigers’ self-belief ahead of their biggest game of the season proved fully justified and the arrogant attempts by Wigan coach Shaun Wane to fire his team up backfired.
Tigers didn’t just beat them; Wigan were out-fought, out-enthused and out-played on their own patch. What a win this Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final – their third successive victory over Wigan – was for Tigers.
To put it into context, it was Wigan’s first home defeat since 1986 – a run of 31 straight wins. Cas beat them at Central Park that year and went on to win the Cup.
If Tigers continue to play like they did in their 16-4 triumph two days ago it will take a very good team to stop them getting their hands on the trophy again.
It was an astonishing Castleford performance. They were unfortunate not to have been more than 6-0 ahead at the break, but were put under huge pressure afterwards and eventually cracked after 62 minutes.
Wigan seemed to have the momentum then, but Tigers found energy from somewhere to rally with a breakaway try and then hit the hosts with a killer punch in the final moments. It was a totally deserved victory to which every Castleford player contributed and second-row Oliver Holmes provided the star turn.
Cas dominated most of the opening period, created all the good chances and had one touchdown controversially ruled out by video referees Ben Thaler and James Child.
The obstruction rule is in danger of ruining the game and driving fans away. The RFL have to ask themselves if it is worth persisting with a law which is difficult to understand and results in seemingly good tries being disallowed. Video referees should be there to check for obvious mistakes, not find ways of denying good attack. Which is what happened on 28 minutes when Luke Dorn went over for what should have been the opening try.
A few decisions went against Cas in that opening stanza, particularly a knock-on by Matty Bowen which was ruled by the video refs to be a charge down and the same player’s unpunished shoulder charge on a rampaging Andy Lynch.
Four minutes after the no-try Cas tapped a penalty in front of the posts and James Clare crossed at the corner after Scott Wheeldon, Marc Sneyd, Dorn and Michael Shenton had handled. This time the video duo gave the green light and Sneyd landed a terrific touchline conversion.
Cas would have been further in front, but for John Bateman’s sensational tackle to halt – and then steal the ball from – Lynch on the stroke of half-time.
At the start of the second half Wigan had their first clear chance when Joe Burgess dropped Liam Farrell’s pass with the line open, but Cas continued to squander opportunities, such as when Dorn got clear, but Shenton knocked his pass forward to Sneyd. Cas must have been worried their missed chances would come back to bite them, particularly as the pressure steadily built after that. Sean O’Loughlin got over the line but had the ball ripped out, Michael McIlorum was tackled just short, sensational left-side defence denied Anthony Gelling and Holmes pulled off a miraculous tackle on George Williams. The inevitable Wigan try came when Farrell twisted over from George Williams’ pass, though Matty Smith could not convert. Two points adrift, Wigan were gaining a stranglehold, but a penalty broke it and led to a thrilling attack which saw Jake Webster slip out a wonderful pass to Kirk Dixon, who made an equally impressive catch. No goal, so it was a six-point ball game. But with Wigan just a converted try away from sending a cracking tie into extra-time, Cas did most of the pressing and were rewarded in the dying moments when Lee Jewitt nipped over from acting-half and Sneyd added the extras.
Wigan Warriors: Bowen, Manfredi, Sarginson, Gelling, Burgess, Williams, Smith, Flower, McIlorum, Dudson, L Farrell, Bateman, O’Loughlin. Subs (all used) Hughes, Crosby, Hampshire, Sutton.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn, Dixon, Shenton, Webster, Clare, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Jewitt. Subs (all used) Millington, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.