Richie Mathers experienced the lows and highs of a rugby player's life in an intensely dramatic and thrilling match at Castleford yesterday.
The former Wigan full-back was so error-prone that Terry Matterson had little option but to replace him in the first half. When he came back on the wing late in the game, however, he dived over joyously for the try that sealed Castleford's comeback and salvaged an unlikely draw.
"Credit to Richie," said Matterson. "He's been good for us all year, but he just had one of those days. He didn't drop his head and that's the measure of the player he is."
Mistakes from Mathers set up the first two Wigan tries for Brett Finch and Josh Charnley, but he was not the only player to have his embarrassing moments in difficult conditions. After Paul Prescott had added another, the Tigers' usually reliable goal-kicker, Kirk Dixon, failed to tag a conversion on to Dean Widders' try. That left Wigan with an 18-point half-time lead, which looked like plenty until fatigue kicked in. Wigan had seven players involved in the Exiles game on Friday night, but only Sam Tomkins and George Carmont were rested.
The visitors should have wrapped up the game when Pat Richard unaccountably dropped the ball with a clear run to the line. That was all the encouragement Cas, with their Friday night participant Rangi Chase now on the field, needed.
Joe Arundel started their climb back with his first, followed by a try from Martin Aspinwall.
Then, with time running out in an increasingly frantic atmosphere, Chris Tuson knocked on and Mathers gratefully clutched Chase's long pass for a try Dixon could not convert.
With both Warrington and Huddersfield losing, it was not a completely black Sunday for Wigan, but coach Michael Maguire said: "No excuses from us," he said. "We had people capable of doing the job, but in the second half they just didn't get it done."
Castleford Mathers; Dixon, Thompson, Arundel, Owen; McGoldrick, Orr; Jackson, Milner, Emmitt, Ferres, Aspinwall, Hudson. Substitutes used Chase, Fozzard, Massey, Widders.
Wigan Roberts; Charnley, Tomkins, Goulding, Richard; Finch, Deacon; Mossop, Leuluai, Lima, Hansen, Hoffman, Tuson. Substitutes used McILorum, O'Loughlin, Prescott, Farrell.
Referee P Bentham (Warrington).