Wigan game a must-win for Castleford
03 April 2019 - Written by Callum Walker
Rewind to a month ago and Castleford were unbeaten in the Super League with four wins from four. Victories against Catalans, Hull FC, London and Hull KR left them one of three teams unbeaten – along with St Helens and Warrington – but since then, the Tigers have lost three games from four - their only victory coming in a home tie against Salford.
This victory over Salford sandwiched two disappointing losses to Warrington and St Helens before the Tigers put in their worst performance of the season against Leeds, going down 21-20 in golden point.
Bottom of the table and looking like they were heading for a fight to stay in the top flight, Leeds ran into a 20-4 lead before Castleford hit back with three tries in 11 minutes to set up a tense finale. But, rather deservedly, the Rhinos finished the game off with a drop-goal in golden point.
It wasn’t just the fact that Castleford lost their third in four matches, it was the manner of defeat which irked Tigers fans. For 60 minutes they looked void of ideas, flat in attack and suspect in defence.
And, for yet another game in succession, the right edge of Greg Minikin and James Clare looked fragile at best. A number of three-quarters have been linked to the club, but so far none have come through the door – something that needs to change quickly.
Castleford somehow remain in third place, but four clubs are now on eight points and therefore two behind the Tigers. The Yorkshire club could end up sixth at the end of the next round of games if they lose and other results don’t go their way. But, every Rugby League fan knows not to rely on other teams to help them out, therefore a win against Wigan is needed to stave off those just below them.
Although seriously below par for the most of the game against Leeds, there were a few positives that the Tigers can take into this weekend’s fixture. Peter Mata’utia gets better with each passing week and looked at home when he moved into the halves, setting up two tries to get the Tigers back into the game.
Youngster Calum Turner only got game time because of the injury to halfback Jordan Rankin, but he impressed greatly at fullback when he came off the bench and definitely deserves to retain his spot against Wigan. Liam Watts was superb again as was Matt Cook when he came on whilst Greg Eden improved from his horror show against St Helens the week before.
But, there’s too many passengers in this Castleford side that look like they’re just going through the motions. Adam Milner has done nothing since earning his new deal in 2018, Greg Minikin looks as though he’s never played centre whilst Oliver Holmes offers little in the backrow.
The Tigers do have a number of injuries – Luke Gale, Jamie Ellis, Mike McMeeken, Mitch Clark, Nathan Massey and Jordan Rankin – but realistically only Gale and McMeeken are big losses. As such, those Castleford fans that blame results on the lack of manpower are kidding themselves.
The Tigers need to turn things around before they get stuck in a losing rut. Three losses from four can quite quickly turn into four losses from five and five losses from six and a slide down the table. In front of their home fans and with the return of Zak Hardaker, Castleford will be desperate for victory. But, desperation alone may not be enough to get them over the line against a Wigan side buoyant from their 42-0 thrashing of Catalans.