Five things we learned from Wigan’s 54-4 mauling at Castleford on Saturday night...
1. The talk pre-match was who would go top, why this was not on Sky Sports and whether this would be a classic.
But from the opening minute, when Castleford broke from deep and registered their first of nine tries, it was clear the pre-match predictions were way off.
Castleford has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Shaun Wane’s Warriors, this their fourth defeat in their last five meetings, and their biggest ever Super League loss to the Tigers - eclipsing the 42-14 victory in 2015.
It also ensured Castleford completed a league ‘double’ over Wigan to claim top spot.
2. So what went wrong for Wigan? It was the perfect storm.
Patched-up and disjointed before the game, they lost three players to injury during the match - giving Wane just one fit substitute - and two players to the sin-bin.
Throw into the pot the mother of all off-days, and Castleford’s dazzling display, and we got this; a match as One Way as King Street.
3. History has taught us not to read too much into one-off blowout scores.
But Castleford certainly showed enough quality to suggest they will be in the mix at the end of the year.
Sure, they were helped all the way by a frail defensive display by Wigan, but their pack was dominant - Mike McMeeken showed why he is in the England squad - and their backline razor sharp.
In front of their home crowd, on a Saturday evening - a timeslot they are trialling to gauge fans’ reaction - they proved hard to stop as they established a 26-4 half-time lead, and twisted the knife in the second-half.
4. The night proved particularly painful for George Williams, who left the action at half-time with a knee injury which has ruled him out of England’s Test against Samoa next week.
He will need the joint scanned to assess the severity of the injury, but with the England contingent from this game flying out today, he was quickly ruled out and replaced by Warrington’s Kevin Brown.
With stand-off Gareth Widdop injured, Williams had a golden opportunity to stake a pre-World Cup marker.
5. And to think, some people are still questioning whether Sam Tomkins would get into the Wigan side. Ha!
Wane could be without 11 first-teamers for Friday’s visit of Salford... pretty sure he would find a role for Tomkins somewhere!
As well as Williams, Wane also lost Anthony Gelling (knee) and Ben Flower (Achilles) to injury during the match, joining the seven other first-teamers on the sidelines.
With Sean O’Loughlin representing England next weekend, he will need to draft in several fringe players for Friday’s visit of Salford.
Expect fit-again Lewis Tierney, Liam Forsyth, Nick Gregson and Joe Bretherton to come into the picture.