Wigan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
CASTLEFORD did not merely win the Regal Trophy at Headingley on Saturday. They turned the game on its head.
As their inspiring captain, Lee Crooks, said in a euphoric dressing- room afterwards, there could be nothing more satisfying than not only beating the sport's dominant force in a major final, but beating them at their own game in the process. 'We beat them for intensity in the first 20 minutes, when they throw everything but the kitchen sink at you,' he said. 'We reversed that.'
For John Joyner, a winner in his first season as a coach, the keynote was the same. 'They've been doing it to other sides for years. We set about them to see how they enjoyed being under the same sort of pressure,' he said.
It was clear from early in the match that something novel was happening. It is in the nature of the sport that every side gets scoring opportunities, even against the best.
Against Wigan, however, they tend to be like once-only offers in the January sales; grab now or pay the full price later. Twice in the first 13 minutes, Wigan, through the overworked Joe Lydon, prevented a try only for their defence to fail to reorganise quickly enough and for Castleford to score immediately after.
From that point, Castleford were gloriously in command, although they had to defend magnificently when Wigan briefly matched them for enthusiasm after half-time.
The way they extracted crucial contributions from unlikely sources was typified by the two tries from Martin Ketteridge, the first two of a season that has brought him more sweat than headlines, but also by the visionary cross-kick from another toiler, Ian Smales, to create the second try.
Ketteridge was a predictable choice as man of the match, but it could equally have gone to Crooks or to other vastly influential figures like Tawera Nikau and Mike Ford.
There was not, though, a sub- standard performer anywhere in the Castleford side, something that emphatically could not be said of Wigan.
It says something for the paucity of their performance that their best player was Mick Cassidy, a mere stand-in among Wigan's cast of stars and the smallest forward on the field when he came on as a 20th- minute substitute.
It did not take long for the inquests to start. John Dorahy, losing a Regal Trophy final for the third time, spoke darkly of unsettling influences at the club - for which read the bitterly resented predations of John Monie and the Auckland Warriors - and of a mood within the game which was willing Wigan to lose.
Well, yes, John. But anyone who wants a change has been pointing the bones at Wigan for years and Wigan have not obliged them like this.
Theories will be legion and one is that Va'aiga Tuigamala's lurking presence in the wings is another unsettling factor.
For whatever reason, there were players in the Wigan team who looked as though they were ready and willing to step aside for the newcomer.
Martin Offiah has rarely been as ineffective and he and another player of undoubted class, Gary Connolly, played not only as though they had never met, but as though they doubted each other's existence.
None of this should detract from Castleford's achievement. If Wigan were to be knocked off, it is fitting that it should have been done with such style.
Even the bare statistics are astonishing; the highest score and the biggest winning margin in the history of the final and, from Crooks, the record individual contribution.
Joyner was a player in the Castleford side that beat Blackpool Borough, then a couple of places from the foot of the Second Division, when they last won the Trophy 17 years ago. The incontestable fact that says it all about Wigan on Saturday was that Blackpool gave Cas a far harder game.
Castleford: Steadman; Ellis, Blackmore, Anderson (Hay, 62), Middleton; Kemp, Ford; Crooks, Russell, Ketteridge (Sampson, 73), Morrison, Smales, Nikau.
Wigan: Lydon; Robinson, Mather, Connolly, Offiah; Botica, Edwards (Panapa, 50); Skerrett, Dermott, Platt, Cowie (Cassidy, 29), Farrell, Clarke.
Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).
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