Castleford 54 Wigan 4
Wigan were blown away as they crumbled to their heaviest defeat of the year.
From start to finish, Shaun Wane’s men simply had no match for the Tigers in this duel for top-spot in Super League.
Ther was some mitigation for the landslide loss, with three players suffering injuries during the game - Anthony Gelling, George Williams and Ben Flower - and two more sin-binned.
Throw into the pot their poor display - and this was the mother of all off-days - and the fact they met a team as slick as they were physical as they were confident, and you had this; a one-sided mauling reminiscent of Castleford’s destruction of Leeds earlier in the year.
While the Tigers underlined their trophy-winning credentials, this was one of those nights to forget for Wigan.
They were lethargic and wasteful in possession, and their defence was picked apart far too easily as a three-game winning streak was abruptly halted.
Williams’ injury, of course, will be a major concern to national coach Wayne Bennett.
The other four England players - Sean O’Loughlin, as well as Castleford’s Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker and Mike McMeeken - appeared to finish the game without any injury or suspension worries.
They will fly out to Australia tomorrow, linking up with the NRL-based players as well as the eight Super League players who have already set off ahead of next Saturday’s Test against Samoa.
Wane will need to shuffle his ranks again - and repair some wounded pride - for Friday’s visit of Salford.
Thomas Leuluai broke his jaw in last week’s 42-22 win against Catalans, joining five other frontline players on the sidelines. Wane moved Sam Powell to the playmaker role, which allowed Josh Ganson - son of ex-referee Steve - to come onto the bench for his Wigan debut.
But by the time Ganson entered the action shortly before half-time, his side were 26-4 down after a laboured, painful, opening.
It was, comfortably, the Warriors’ worst half this year as ‘classy Cas’ out-scored them four-tries-to-one to establish a commanding lead.
The Tigers, who had lost their previous two, served notice of their intentions with a try inside the opening minute. Their left-side has been particularly sharp this year, and they cut the visitors apart for Adam Milner to cross from close-range. Gale added his first of five first-half goals.
Anthony Gelling, back in the side after a one game ban, limped off injured, forcing Willie Isa to take the centre role in a patched-up, vulnerable-looking right edge.
Wigan struggled to match the hosts’ intensity, and after Hardaker had punctured the defence, captain Michael Shenton raced 40 metres to score. Only an obstruction call from referee Robert Hicks prevented a third try down the same side moments later.
Wigan were reduced to 12-men for a spell after Frank-Paul Nuuausala was sinbinned for dissent, having already conceded a penalty - for an altercation with Hardaker - which allowed Gale to nudge Cas’ 14-points ahead.
Down to 12-men, Wigan briefly improved. First, top-tryscorer Liam Marshall went close in the corner and then, after earning a repeat set, Powell cut through the defence for their only try.
But Morgan Escare was off-target with his conversion attempt - through the fog of a red smoke bomb set off in the away end - and from restart Wigan handed over possession. Cas’ gratefully accepted the gift, and made it count as Matt Cook thundered over from short-range to make it 20-4.
Wigan’s defence simply melted away to leak a fourth try from McMeeken.
Williams left the pitch rubbing his knee and talking to the physio, and he didn’t reappear for the second-half. If that loss was a blow, they were soon reduced to 12-men - again - as Escare was sinbinned for a high tackle.
Cas’ qukckly piled on three further tries, first stretching the defence for Greg Minikin to cross in the corner, Gale dancing past a stranded Isa, Grant Millington finishing a Paul McShane break.
There was a brief respite, but Wigan’s attempts to conjure a try ended with Tomkins spilling the ball over the line. And Cas’ roared down field to add a further try from Jake Webster, pushing their lead out to 48-4.
The exchanges became scrappy in the closing stages as Wigan attempted to salvage some pride. But Castleford broke from deep for Minikin to go over and cross the half-century mark, as Daryl Powell’s side became the first team to register a ‘double’ against the Warriors this year.
Castleford: Hardaker; Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Millington, McShane, Massey, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Milner. Subs: Chase, Moors, Cook, Monaghan.
Wigan: Escare; Davies, Gelling, Burgess, Marshall; Williams, Powell; Nuuausala, McIlorum, Flower, Tomkins, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Tautai, Sutton, Isa, Ganson.
Referee: Robert Hicks