Wigan Warriors host Castleford Tigers this Thursday down at the DW Stadium. Wigan have suffered back-to-back defeats, meanwhile the Tigers are top of Super League, having won six of their seven league games this campaign.
LAST TIME OUT
Wigan go into this game on the back of a 26-18 defeat away at Leeds Rhinos. It was a bright start for Wigan, and after an Ashton Goulding penalty-goal, George Williams would show his class to jinx through the Leeds defence and get the first try of the game. Wigan were on top early on, and looked good to go over again, until a loose pass was picked up, and almost immediately, Leeds went the full length of the field, with Ryan Hall finishing off under the sticks. Minutes later, Leeds were in again, this time it was Joel Moon. The Australian just walked through a poor Wigan defence, and Leeds led 14-6. Wigan hit back, as once again, Williams waltzed through the Rhinos defence, to get his side back in the game. Leeds went into halftime 14-12 up, but down to 12-men, as Brett Ferres was sent to the sin-bin following a horrible crusher tackle on Oliver Gildart. Wigan couldn’t capitalise on the 12-man Leeds, and it was the Rhinos who scored the first try of the second half. Kallum Watkins would break away down the right-edge, and he barged his way over the line, for a great try. Wigan got a stroke of luck when Liam Marshall collected a loose pass from Leeds, to go 50-metres for his sixth of the season. Wigan trailed 20-18, with 15 minutes to go. Shaun Wane’s men pushed late on for a winning try, but they just weren’t smart enough with the ball, giving it away too many times. Leeds punished them with minutes to go, as Carl Ablett stormed over, to makesure that the game was done and the two-points were in the bag. The game finished and Leeds ended up deserved 26-18 winners.
Castleford go into this game on the back of a 52-16 demolition job, on Huddersfield Giants. It was the Giants who got off on the front foot, when Ryan Hinchcliffe went over for the games first try, and Huddersfield led 4-0. This was to be their last points for a good while. Tigers would run-in with 26 unanswered points, that included five tries. Up first was Ben Roberts, that was soon followed up by Jake Webster and Mike McMeeken, which gave the Tigers a 16-4 lead at halftime. While Castleford may have had a slow start to the first half, they certainly started the second one on fire. Within a minute, they were over for another try, this time it was Luke Gale getting in on the act. Gale and Monaghan would both score hat-tricks in the second half, and Tigers would score a total of seven second half tries. Adam Milner would go over for the Tigers to stretch their lead to 26-4. Then, as Tigers kindly stopped scoring, the Giants got another on the board, and went into double figures, through a Ryan Brierley try. After that little set-back, Castleford got the game back on track, as they would run-in for four tries, through a double-double for Gale and Monaghan, to extend their lead to 46-10. It’s been an unbelievable start to the season for Castleford and they just seem to be scoring tries for fun. Lee Gaskell would get a late consolation for Huddersfield, but the Tigers would still have the last word when Monaghan completed his hat-trick, to send the Tigers fans home happy, as their side sat top of Super League.
Where to start with this one. Tigers have danger, and class all over the pitch this season. Wigan will have to be on their game to deal with them. A huge part of their success this campaign has been out on the wing. So far, wingers Greg Eden, Joel Monaghan and Greg Minikin have scored 23 tries between them in just seven games, it’s simply incredible. Although the young wingers who have come in at Wigan have done well, you’d think they’ll be in for a long evening up against these pairings.
Tigers have also got a great half-back selection. They start with Luke Gale and Ben Roberts while having the option of Rangi Chase from the bench. Gale has been a real influential player for Tigers this season, and he has been directly involved in 14 tries for his side. Meanwhile, George Williams and Tommy Leuluai have also been great this season, albeit a bit lacklustre in recent weeks. Williams can change a game in an instant, just like we saw at Leeds last week. This should be a very high quality game.
Finally, it’s the battle between Morgan Escaré and Zak Hardaker. Again, with all the quality within Castleford this season, it comes from all areas, and Hardaker has played a big role. He’s been directly involved in 11 tries. When coming in from Leeds, there was big pressure on him, and so far, he’s delivered. As for Escaré, he may not have been involved in as many tries, but his influence on the team is just as big. He’s become a quick fan favourite, and for my money, currently the best full-back in Super League.
This game will go one of two-ways. It will either be a complete walkover for Castleford and they’ll continue their dominating start to the season. Or, Wigan will put in one of ‘those’ performances and pick-up a seemingly unlikely win. As a Wigan fan, I will go for the latter.
Wigan Warriors by 4
Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane:
“We need to play at our best this week, Castleford are a good team. The way they attack is fantastic. Their halves are good, Rangi Chase was untouchable last week.”
“We need to put their main players under a bit of pressure. If you let Castleford play then they’ll score points.”
“We need to get back on the horse again, and want to do it on Thursday.”
Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell:
“We’re not disappointed, that would be a daft thing to say having won 52-16. But I don’t think we played to our potential really. There were too many errors and it was messy.”
“If we’re going to beat top sides like Wigan this week then we can’t have that many mistakes.”
“That’s not to put a negative slant on it, we’ll take the two points and move on but we know we’ll have to be better come Thursday.”
Joe Bretherton replaces Oliver Gildart in the squad. Liam Farrell and Anthony Gelling are both named in the squad again with the Warriors coaching staff expected the give the pair a chance to prove their fitness ahead of the game.
Daryl Powell has made just one change to the team that beat Huddersfield Giants last week as Grant Millington drops out of the squad with Greg Minikin taking his place after recovering from his shoulder injury.
Wigan Warriors: Joe Bretherton, Tony Clubb, Tom Davies, Morgan Escaré, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Liam Forsyth, Anthony Gelling, Nick Gregson, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Romain Navarrete, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Joel Tomkins and George Williams.
Castleford Tigers: Rangi Chase, Matt Cook, Greg Eden, Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Oliver Holmes, Andy Lynch, Nathan Massey, Paul McShane, Mike McMeeken, Greg Minikin, Adam Milner, Joel Monaghan, Junior Moors, Ben Roberts, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer and Jake Webster.
Referee: Robert Hicks
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Date/Time: 6th March 2017 – 20:00pm GMT