Castleford Tigers 0 Wigan Warriors 22: Blunt Castleford Tigers waste golden opportunity against Wigan
How ironic that Castleford Tigers could not score a try against befuddled opponents who had become renowned for just that.
Troubled Wigan Warriors had gone five successive halves without crossing and were edging closer to the four hour mark when Jackson Hastings finally ended that barren run for them in the 14th minute.
Thereafter, Castleford had enough possession and territory to win three matches but badly fluffed their lines when a fifth successive win would have seen them usurp Wigan from fourth spot.
Instead, their opponents, who defended superbly but were given so much help by Tigers’ misfiring attack, added three more tries in the second period to ease the pressure on head coach Adrian Lam who otherwise faced four consecutive defeats.
It was the third game in ten days for both sides and it showed.
Still, that will not help Castleford chief Daryl Powell who, with play-off rivals Leeds Rhinos and Hull FC both losing earlier in the day, knew this was a glorious chance to help cement a top-six spot.
They had all the early pressure but did nothing with it mainly due to poor last plays - Danny Richardson and Michael Shenton both kicking meekly - and a wayward Liam Watts offload.
In contrast, Wigan scored with their first attack when Hastings straightened up from close in.
Harry Smith added the first of his three goals but the hosts continued to dominate in all facets other than the scoreboard.
Castleford’s forwards made ground comfortably, the likes of Nathan Massey, George Griffin and Suaia Matagi eating up metres around the ruck especially with Derrell Olpherts and Jordan Turner starting their sets so well.
However, when it came to the last 20m, Powell’s side were devoid of all cohesion, imagination and accuracy.
Too often Richardson slid kicks directly to a Wigan defender, Gareth O’Brien was similarly off-target and they lacked injured hooker Paul McShane’s organisation from dummy-half.
When O’Brien did force a drop-out, Griffin spilled the ball when running it back from halfway.
Castleford were grateful to Oli Holmes who - for the third time in barely five minutes - won possession back with one of his trademark rib-rattling hits.
Joe Bullock, for the second time, spilled in his own half due to the sheer ferocity of the England second-row’s defence and Liam Byrne was the other stunned forward who finished on the wrong end of Holmes’ famed technique.
They will miss him when he heads to Warrington Wolves at the end of the season.
Nevertheless, after Holmes’ third hit, possession was once more wasted by a wretched O’Brien kick.
You began to wonder if Castleford would score a point before the turn of the next Bank Holiday.
To compound matters, they were reduced to 12 men with just 14 seconds of the half remaining when Jesse Sene-Lefao this time rattled Bullock but illegally with a high tackle and was yellow carded.
That said, matters were levelled up - in terms of players on the pitch, at least - within just 53 seconds of the second half.
Byrne was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle around the lower leg of Massey but Tigers once more wasted the chance as Shenton spilled in the next set.
Instead, they were grateful for a post getting in the way of Hastings adding a second try and Olpherts desperately getting a hand to a loose ball to prevent Oliver Gildart from scoring.
O’Brien did force a second drop-out of the game yet, with a penalty, too, Castleford still could not get over.
Wigan remained steely but they were aided by the home side looking shambolic any time they tried to move the ball wide.
Smith missed a simple penalty attempt in the 54th minute meaning Powell’s side were still in touch.
But then Castleford missed touch with a penalty of their own to further infuriate their increasingly irritated fans.
Matters got worse when yet another ball went to ground, this time from Turner who had moved to stand-off with O’Brien off, and Liam Marshall picked up to race 80m for Wigan’s second try just before the hour.
O’Brien immediately came back on as hooker Adam Milner limped off.
Smith missed another rudimentary penalty but, by then, it was obvious it would not matter.
After Alex Foster caught Hastings high, Oliver Gildart added their third try with 13 minutes remaining, showing all the clinical touch Castleford had been so badly lacking, and Brad Singleton added a fourth with the final play as Wigan secured a first win at Wheldon Road in more than five years.
With just three regular rounds remaining, Castleford head to Newcastle to face Salford Red Devils on Saturday with their play-offs fate still very much up in the air.