Wigan 26 Castleford 12

Lewis Tierney crosses for Wigan's first try
Lewis Tierney crosses for Wigan's first try

After the storm, the calm.

Wigan resumed regular service by battling to a deserved victory at the DW Stadium to move to third in the ladder.

And it proved a good night all round as Hull FC and Warrington went down to bottom-two sides Leeds and Huddersfield respectively.

Generous observers would label the Warriors’ performance ‘gutsy’, harsher judges would say ‘ugly’. All agreed that, after Sunday’s 62-0 mauling at Wakefield, the win provided much-needed assurance that their previous display had been - as Shaun Wane described - a ‘blip’.

Wigan led 8-6 at half-time but, perhaps understandably, looked nervous and panicky as they forced plays and offloads.

But after leaking an early try from the restart they seemed more settled and content to build pressure, and the change of tact paid off.

Trailing 12-8, they nudged back ahead through John Bateman’s converted try before Nick Gregson crossed to open up an eight-point lead.

This being Wigan, there were the usual grated nerves before full-time, but Bateman added the crowning gloss with his second try to seal an ultimately deserved and satisfying win.

And with many stars set to be drip-fed back into the side over the next few weeks, the Warriors appear in good position to maintain their play-offs charge.

While the line-up didn’t look weak by any stretch, it did look disjointed, with several frontline stars including Sam Tomkins, Anthony Gelling, Dom Manfredi, George Williams, Ben Flower and Sean O’Loughlin still absent.

Prop Joe Bretherton kept his place in the squad for his home debut, while academy forward Gregson continued to operate as a makeshift stand-off.

Castleford had on-loan Wigan ace Ryan Hampshire in their side - at full-back, ironically, given he left because he wasn’t happy in that role.

After an impeccably-observed minute’s silence for legend Mick Sullivan, the scrappy early exchanges hinted at the type of game which was to follow.

Two early penalties put Wigan under early pressure - they thwarted chances on both wings - before a spill by Gregson presented the Tigers with their chance for the opening try in the eighth minute.

Taking advantage of a freeplay, Luke Gale sliced a kick through for Denny Solomona to reach. The halfback then added the extras to make it 6-0.

Surging drives by Tony Clubb helped Wigan respond, though their attacks inside Cas’ 20m were scruffy. They offloaded frequently but there seemed little purpose or thought to the ad-lib passages.

Still, it presented Lewis Tierney a chance for Wigan to drew level. He attacked the defence, kicked on and regathered after a kind bounce off an upright.

Smith converted to lock the scores and, in a further boost to their chances, Gale was sinbinned by the referee for protesting Lee Mossop’s pass in the build-up had been forward.

The action was end to end but there was little quality. The loudest applause was saved for Dom Crosby as he returned from the bench for his first game in six months, and made inroads with his determined charges.

With seven seconds to go before the half-time siren, Smith slotted over a penalty to poke them 8-6 in front.

Their early passages of the second-half were more settled, but against the run of play the Tigers retook the lead when Grant Millington eventually profited from Gale’s crossfield kick to make it 12-8.

Still, the Warriors didn’t appear rattled and they seemed content to build pressure rather than chase instant points.

And that ploy worked as, on the hour-mark, Bateman - playing his first game since Easter Monday - opened up a space in the defence which he exploited, dragging the scores back level before Smith’s conversion put the Warriors 14-12 in front.

Bateman crossed again two minutes later only to be held up over the line, but they remained in control and Gregson’s shimmy and angled run saw him cross for his first Super League try to open up an eight-point lead.

Bateman was deservedly named the sponsors’ man of the match and, to emphasise the point, he added a second just before the final hooter - Smith stepped up to convert, maintaining his 100 per cent goal-kicking accuracy during the game.

The Warriors are next in action at home against Huddersfield in front of the Sky Sports cameras next Thursday.

Wigan: Sarginson; Tierney, Bateman, Gildart, Charnley; Gregson, Smith; Mossop, Powell, Clubb, J Tomkins, Isa, Sutton. Subs: Crosby, Tautai, Burke, Bretherton.

Castleford: Hampshire; Monaghan, Minikin, Webster, Solomona; Holmes, Gale; Lynch, Milner, Jewitt, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: McShane, Millington, Maher, Cook.

Referee: Phil Bentham

Half-time: 8-6

Attendance: 11,849

Starman: John Bateman