Castleford show they mean business this season with comfortable victory over title-rivals Wigan

IAN LAYBOURN
Luke Gale scores a try for the Castleford Tigers in their win over Wigan

Castleford sent out a message that they really mean business this year as they strengthened their position at the top of the Betfred Super League with a 27-10 demolition of reigning champions Wigan.

The Tigers made it seven wins from eight with a clinical performance that condemned their injury-hit hosts to a third successive defeat.

The Yorkshiremen were not at their fluent best, as they dipped below their average of 40 points a game, but coach Daryl Powell will be delighted with the steely nature of their defence which restricted the champions to a try in each half from full-back Morgan Escare.

Wigan are still without nine members of their first-choice starting team, including four England internationals, and have now gone four matches without a win after starting the defence of their title with four straight wins to trail the leaders by five points going into Easter.

Castleford captain Michael Shenton wanted his team to make a statement at the DW Stadium and they did just that in his absence after he pulled out of the match with a back injury sustained in the warm-up.

Joel Monaghan was drafted into the side in the last-minute re-shuffle, with Greg Minikin switching to centre on his return from a two-match injury absence, and the late change appeared to affect them as they made a customary slow start.

Handling errors from Nathan Massey, Jake Webster and Michael McMeeken inside the first eight minutes enabled Wigan to pile on the pressure and hooker Sam Powell and prop Ryan Sutton both reached the tryline only to be held up on their back.

The Tigers gradually weathered the storm and hit their hosts with two tries in three minutes early in the second quarter.

A clever delayed pass from stand-off Ben Roberts on the last tackle got centre Jake Webster bursting through for the first before an offload by substitute Jesse Sene-Lefao got full-back Zak Hardaker racing into space for acting captain Luke Gale to finish off with his ninth try of the season.

Gale kicked both conversions, one of them off an upright, and added a penalty on 31 minutes to increase the lead to 14-0.

Wigan suffered a blow when Powell was forced off with a head cut on 25 minutes, with George Williams - their in-form playmaker - taking on the dummy-half duties, but they pulled a try back six minutes before the break when Escare eluded Gale's tackle to cross wide out.

A patched-up Powell was able to return for the start of the second half but he was a spectator as a rampaging Sene-Lefao sent a trio of defenders flying as he charged over for a solo try within three minutes of the re-start.

Stalemate ensued with both teams settling for an arm wrestle until the game opened up in the final eight minutes.

A fine touchline run from rookie winger Tom Davies created Escare's second try and Wigan were going for another when Castleford winger Greg Eden picked off Joel Tomkins' pass and sprinted 95 metres for his 11th try of the season.

Gale kicked his fifth goal from as many attempts before wrapping up the scoring with a last-minute drop goal.

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