Wigan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
A BLUNDER 11 minutes from time by Jason Robinson pushed Wigan to a defeat that could cost them the First Division Championship.
St Helens' convincing win over Leeds means that if they can beat Wigan on Friday they need only to defeat Widnes on Easter Monday to pip their rivals at the post. If that happens, Wigan will look back on the final error in a sloppy performance with a shudder.
Castleford were defending a lead of three points yesterday when their full-back, Graham Steadman, tried a kick into the Wigan in-goal area. The ball looked certain to roll dead, but instead dug in its toes.
Even so, Robinson had plenty of time to kick clear but missed completely and lost his balance. Steadman followed up almost as an afterthought to touch down and added the goal and a slender lead became a winning nine- point margin.
For long periods, neither side had seemed to want to win. Castleford took a lead despite themselves in the 19th minute when Tawera Nikau sent Tony Smith in for a try, Lee Crooks adding the goal.
Wigan first registered through a penalty goal from Frano Botica and Neil Cowie then found a gaping hole for a try, Botica's goal giving them the lead at half-time.
Grant Anderson's try and Lee Crooks's goal put Castleford four points up after the break, but Martin Dermot's drop reduced the deficit before the Castleford defence opened up for Shaun Edwards.
Botica's goal meant that it was now Wigan who were three points to the good, but Martin Ketteridge's run and Crooks's drive for the line gave Castleford the advantage again. Wigan believed that Crooks had bounced the ball and the Castleford prop also injured himself in scoring.
However, this left Steadman to add the goal and a penalty after Edwards went high on Tony Morrison, while Botica's fourth goal had Wigan moving ominously through the gears and looking the more likely to snatch a win until Steadman struck again.
Wigan may now need to beat Castleford on the last day of the season to claim their fourth successive Championship: worse than that, if other results go against them, it could already be too late.
Castleford: Steadman; Middleton, Smith, Anderson, Ellis; Coyne, Ford; Crooks, (Hay, 57), Southernwood, Sampson, (Ketteridge, 33), Morrison, Fisher, (Sampson, 53), Nikau.
Wigan: Hampson; Robinson, Lydon, Farrar (Panapa, 59), Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Cowie (Gildart, 52), Dermott, Platt, (Cowie, 74), Betts, Panapa (Forshaw, 29), Clarke.
Referee: C Steele (Dalton-in-Furness).