Castleford Tigers 4 Wigan Warriors 32: Liam Watts red card douses home fire as champions take advantage

Castleford took the fight to defending Super League champions Wigan Warriors[1] in a Wheldon Road mud bath, demonstrating the traits that Lingard demanded following a miserable season for the club in 2023.

At a packed Jungle, the Tigers were defending with intent and celebrating the little wins in a show of togetherness.

It all unravelled following Liam Watts[2]‘ red card for a shoulder charge to the head of Wigan prop Tyler Dupree.

The decision was met with disbelief by everybody of a Castleford persuasion inside the ground as Watts trudged off shaking his head.

Rightly or wrongly, it killed a watchable arm wrestle stone dead and allowed the Warriors to cruise to a win that had been in doubt for much of the first half with the Tigers leading 4-2.

The round one victory came at a cost with prop Luke Thompson ruled out of next week’s World Club Challenge after failing a HIA.

Half-back Harry Smith[3], meanwhile, was left sweating over his participation following a yellow card for a dangerous lift.

Referee Tom Grant red cards Castleford's Liam Watts (r) as Joe Westerman looks on in disbelief. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/ Tom Grant red cards Castleford's Liam Watts (r) as Joe Westerman looks on in disbelief. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/
Referee Tom Grant red cards Castleford’s Liam Watts (r) as Joe Westerman looks on in disbelief. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/

The wet weather was a leveller but there was enough to encourage Lingard as he sets about reviving the Tigers.

While there was no external pressure on Castleford with the champions in town, it was an early chance for Lingard’s men to set standards in front of their own fans.

The Tigers were too easy to beat at Wheldon Road last year but they went toe to toe with the Warriors from the off.

In the end, they had only two penalties from Danny Richardson to show for their efforts as the half-back made his long-awaited comeback.

If there was a question mark over whether Wigan would have one eye on the upcoming clash with Penrith, it was quickly dispelled in an aggressive defensive set from the kick-off.

The sides traded penalties inside the opening eight minutes, Smith making no mistake after Kaide Ellis was tackled high before Richardson returned serve when Wigan were caught offside on their own line.

Both decisions were a nod to the conditions which did not make for free-flowing rugby.

On a rare occasion that the Tigers defied the conditions to give the ball some air, Luke Hooley[4]‘s long pass gave Jack Broadbent the chance to charge into space before being quickly shut down by Wigan defenders.

Bevan French tried to get the Warriors going with a trademark burst of pace, only for Adam Keighran to spill his bullet pass with Castleford scrambling.

Wigan might have been fearing the worst when they lost Thompson to a head injury and Smith to a yellow card for a tip tackle on Hooley.

Richardson knocked over a penalty following a ball steal by Liam Farrell as the Tigers set about taking full advantage of Smith’s lapse of discipline.

But one Hooley kick aside that skimmed off the wet surface and out of Innes Senior’s reach, Castleford failed to stretch the champions.

The Warriors were having the same problem – until Watts took the aggression too far in the eyes of the officials.

After George Lawler and Liam Horne rocked Wigan ball carriers with forceful hits, Watts tried to put a shot on Dupree in tandem with Joe Westerman and made contact with the head.

Amid a disciplinary clampdown and with cameras now at every game, Watts would have been fearing a card but was incredulous when referee Tom Grant pulled out the red.

The decision took the fizz out of the match and was a pin to Castleford’s early positivity.

The mood of the locals was not helped by a Wigan scoring spree in the final 10 minutes of the half.

After Keighran kicked the penalty with Watts still shaking his head inside the home dressing room, Patrick Mago took advantage of an error by Hooley from Kruise Leeming’s close-range grubber before turning provider to give French the chance to slide over in the corner.

A hard-fought contest for half an hour had quickly become one-sided.

Grant was serenaded by boos after calling time on the first half in a show of frustration from the home fans who had seen the hope of an opening night victory disappear.

The Warriors scored twice in the opening 15 minutes of the second period to end any doubt over the result.

Liam Marshall cut back inside to score from Jake Wardle’s pass and Leeming marked his debut with a try after racing on to Abbas Miski’s kick.

Marshall completed his double late on but the game will be remembered for Watts’ red card.

Castleford Tigers: Hooley, Qareqare, Broadbent, Wood, Senior, Richardson, Miller, Lawler, Horne, Putt, El-Zakhem, Tasipale, Westerman. Substitutes: Simm, Watts, Hall, Mustapha.

Goals: Richardson 2/2

Red card: Watts (29)

Wigan Warriors: Field, Miski, Keighran, Wardle, Marshall, French, Smith, Thompson, O’Neill, Byrne, Isa, Farrell, Ellis. Substitutes: Cooper, Mago, Leeming, Dupree.

Tries: Mago (34), French (38), Marshall (51, 76), Leeming (54)

Goals: Smith 4/5, Keighran 1/1

Sin bin: Smith (21)

Referee: Tom Grant.


  1. ^ Wigan Warriors (
  2. ^ Liam Watts (
  3. ^ Harry Smith (
  4. ^ Luke Hooley (