Rugby League: Wigan's gamble exposed

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The Independent Online
Castleford. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46

Wigan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

IF there were muffled explosions in the vicinity of Wheldon Road yesterday, they were not the result of fireworks being set off early. They were the sounds of a plan backfiring.

Wigan's gamble in playing the day after five of their team were involved in a Test, rather than claiming the postponement to which they were entitled, looked doomed even before the kick-off.

Gary Connolly was the only player from the international to turn out and with various other injuries, the Wigan team sheet was liberally sprinkled with strange names, including three teenagers making their debuts and two others with negligible first-team experience.

It was never going to be good enough against a team in Castleford's recent impressive form, although there were few signs in the first half that Wigan were on their way to their heaviest defeat for 21 years.

With Kelvin Skerrett and Andy Platt marshalling a nucleus of seasoned players, Wigan denied an untidy Castleford a try for almost half an hour. St John Ellis then continued his prolific run by scoring two within three mintues and the stage was set for Wigan's disintegration after the break.

Helped considerably by Robin Whitfield's liberal interpretation of the rules on forward passes and knock-ons, Castleford were able to run riot.

Grant Anderson took a fine ball from Tawera Nikau for one try and fed Simon Middleton on the wing for a second, while Richie Blackmore and Mike Ford also threaded their way through some increasingly token defence.

Ellis completed the try scoring with his hat-trick two minutes from time and the fact that it came from an obvious knock-on was no longer of any real concern.

Lee Crooks, who kicked seven goals and relished the opportunity to run at a Wigan side unrecognisable from most he has faced, was Castleford's man of the match. He would no doubt have rather played this side than the one which was sitting in the stand and Wigan will think twice before attempting to stretch their resources quite so far again.

Castleford: Steadman; Ellis, Blackmore, Anderson, Middleton; Kemp (Smith, 62), Ford; Crooks, Russell, Ketteridge (Hay, 48), Morrison, Smales, Nikau.

Wigan: Craig (Gildart, 34); Ellison, Lydon (Craig, h-t), Connolly (Radlinsky, 74), Stevens; Wright, Murdoch; Skerrett, Hall, Platt, Cowie, Panapa, Cassidy.

Referee: R Whitfield (Widnes).