FORMER CASTLEFORD Tigers forward Joe Westerman described Warrington Wolves’ Grand Final defeat as worse than Wembley.
The First Utility Super League leaders were pipped 12-6 by Wigan Warriors, six weeks after losing 12-10 to Hull in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.
Westerman was one of three ex-Castleford players on the losing side at Old Trafford, along with Daryl Clark and Ryan Bailey.
It was Bailey’s eighth Grand Final appearance – the previous ones all having been for Leeds Rhinos – and he had been bidding for a seventh win.
There was also disappointment for ex-Wakefield Trinity centre Ryan Atkins, but joy for former Wakefield forward Taulima Tautai and Willie Isa, who had a spell at Tigers.
A shattered Westerman said afterwards: “Wembley was probably the worst I have ever felt after a game, but this has topped it I think.
“To be in control of the game and let it slip like that, it’s heartbreaking.”
Warrington led 6-2 at half-time, Declan Patton crossing from Clark’s dart out of acting-half and adding the extras, after Matty Smith had kicked Wigan in front with a penalty goal.
The key moment came on 53 minutes when Atkins appeared to have forced his way over the try line.
Referee Robert Hicks indicated a try, but asked video assistant Ben Thaler for a second look and the touchdown was ruled out for a knock-on over the line.
Wigan surged upfield from the 20-metre restart and Oliver Gildart crossed off man of the match Liam Farrell’s break.
Seven minutes later Dan Sarginson slid a kick over the line and Josh Charnley marked his final game before switching codes with Sale by scoring the winning try.
Smith added a penalty goal and Warrington went close in the final stages through Matty Russell, Westerman and Kurt Gidley.
“It must have been a pretty good game to watch,” Westerman said. “It was end-to-end stuff, Wigan played well, but they scored a good try in the end out of nothing.”
Of Atkins’ disallowed try, Westerman insisted: “You can’t look at that. I think they just rolled us a bit too quick through the middle.
“They had a game plan: quick play-the-balls, get in our half and kick it and I thought they did it well.
“Our game plan, I thought we did it pretty well, but we just didn’t finish a few tries and a few chances we had.
“Everybody put their body on the line, but once again, just not good enough. We’ve got to look at it and get it right for next year.”
It was ex-Leeds coach Tony Smith’s sixth final and fourth defeat. He predicted Warrington – without a championship since 1955 – will win one “soon”.
Wigan – who were beaten 62-0 at Wakefield in April – had a crippling injury list all year and coach Shaun Wane hailed “the best win we’ve ever had”.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Lineham, R Evans, Atkins, Russell, Gidley, Patton, Hill, Clark, Sims, Wilde, Hughes, Westerman. Subs: T King, G King, Sandow, Bailey.
Wigan Warriors: Sarginson, Charnley, Gelling, Gildart, Tierney, Williams, Smith, Nuuausala, Powell, Flower, Bateman, Farrell, Isa. Subs: Tautai. Sutton, Crosby, O’Loughlin.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).