Rugby League: Wigan hang on to survive onslaught: Castleford run champions close with four tries in last 15 minutes while Gordon welcomes new recruits to Humberside

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The Independent Online
Castleford. . .28

Wigan . . . . .31

SCOTT QUINNELL opted to watch his new team on television rather than spending his first evening as a rugby league player at Wheldon Road last night.

The display he missed seeing at first hand was far from vintage Wigan as they matched Castleford, who lost their scrum-half Gareth Stephens with a suspected broken ankle in the 23rd minute, for untidy mistakes and then lived dangerously by conceding four tries in the last 15 minutes.

Castleford's attempts to take advantage of some poor Wigan handling could have brought more than the penalty goal from Martin Ketteridge after eight minutes.

Shaun Edwards' beautifully flighted cross-kick for Va'aiga Tuigamala brought the first try for Wigan. Other Wigan chances were ruined first by an obstruction between Denis Betts and Martin Offiah and then by Edwards' forward pass to Offiah.

Another kick produced Wigan's second try, but Castleford's hesitation as the ball bounced was almost entirely responsible for giving Henry Paul the chance to score.

A mistake at the other end saw Castleford stay in touch. Jason Robinson caught Tony Kemp's kick but then let it slip from his grasp for Tawera Nikau to swoop on the loose ball and score.

After half-time Wigan showed signs of getting into their formidable stride. It was Tuigamala's powerful run that inflicted further damage. Although the ball ran loose when he was tackled, Martin Hall picked up and Offiah was on hand to claim the try.

Wigan's early uncertainties were now behind them, even if there was a hint of a knock-on by Offiah before Paul weaved his way over in the corner. Tuigamala soon set up Robinson but that only sparked Castleford's late surge. Richard Goddard scored the best individual try of the match, racing 50 yards and deceiving the defence with a dummy. He then took a pass from Tony Smith to go over again.

When Smith himself streched over three minutes from time and Dean Sampson barged over immediately before the hooter, it underlined Wigan's lack of assurance.

Castleford: Steadman; C Smith, Blackmore, Goddard, Wray; T Smith, Stephens (Smales, 23); Russell (Ketteridge, 57), Ketteridge (Sykes, 31), Hay, Nikau, Kemp.

Wigan: Atcheson (Botica, h/t); Robinson, Tuigamala (Atcheson, 72), Connolly, Offiah; Paul, Edwards; O'Connor (Cassidy, 28), Hall, McDermott (O'Connor, 53), Betts, Farrell, Clarke.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).