Luckless Castleford Tigers paid the penalty as a 26-22 defeat at Hull KR last night extended their winless run to six matches.
Tigers – who haven’t won at Craven Park since 1993 – showed great resolve to make a game of it after conceding 10 points at the start of each half.
But ultimately it was their discipline which let them down as Rovers’ first four tries all came in penalty sets.
Rangi Chase showed flashes of brilliance and Jake Webster had a powerful game, though he went off hurt 12 minutes from time.
It was a better contest than could have been expected in the conditions. There was no snow – either in the air or on the ground – but it was bitterly cold in a fierce wind.
It looked like being an easy night for Rovers as they went 10-0 up after 11 minutes, their opening two tries coming following penalties conceded by Craig Huby, first for not playing the ball correctly deep in enemy territory and then after a high tackle.
The ground was still shaking from Webster’s crunching hit on former Cas man Greg Eden – who had a nightmare of a game – when Travis Burns grubbered ahead, regathered and weaved over.
Video referee Tim Roby was happy with the one-handed put down and Burns – standing in for regular kicker Michael Dobson converted his own try.
Dobson was in Rovers’ starting line-up, despite a hamstring injury which seemed to have ruled him out earlier in the week.
There was also a big surprise on Cas’ team sheet, with scrum-half Jamie Ellis dropping to the bench.
Former Leeds Rhinos three-quarter Jordan Tansey was named at scrum-half, though he defended in his regular position of full-back.
Richard Owen was listed in the full-back role, but played on the left wing while Jordan Thompson was named on the right-flank, but actually operated an an extra forward.
Up front, Keith Mason returned after injury and was in the starting front-row, replacing Jake Emmitt who dropped out of the 17, as did Jonathan Walker and Dan Fleming.
Adam Milner was recalled at hooker and Weller Hauraki was back in the second-row after his one-match ban.
Tansey was at half-back when he set up a reviving try for Kirk Dixon after 22 minutes.
He kicked to the right flank and David Hodgson seemed to have it covered, but spilled the ball and Kirk Dixon reacted quickly to touch down.
Roby decided there had been no obstruction in the build-up and was also happy with the grounding, before Dixon added the extras.
At 10-6 it was game on and a Webster break gave Cas more momentum, but they paid the penalty again, being penalised four successive times including three in front of their own posts.
Other than the first one, all were kickable, but Rovers opted for taps and were rewarded when David Hodgson got over at the corner after Dobson, Eden and Welham had handled, though again Burns could not add the extras, on 27.
At 14-6 Rovers were again in the driving seat, but Chase suddenly got a grip on the game.
On 33 minutes the stand-off’s brilliant pass put former Hull KR three-quarter Webster over and Dixon improved. Rovers weren’t happy with the scrum award which led to the try, but it was time Cas had a decision in their favour after previous 50-50s had gone against them.
Then Eden dropped Chase’s kick under no pressure, Dobson picked up in an offside position and following the penalty another great pass by Chase fed Webster and he put Owen over, though that was unconverted.
The outlook of the game seemed much different at half-time to 10 minutes before, but it took another twist early in the second period.
Chase seemed to have landed a 40-20 kick, but referee James Child and his touch judge both side no.
In the set following the scrum Thompson has harshly penalised for a ball steal and that set field position for Josh Hodgson to go over from acting-half.
It wasn’t an ideal night for long delays, but Child again handed the decision on and Roby gave the green light. Burns converted to make it
20-16 on 47 minutes.
And five later Burns’ kick stood up nicely for Craig Hall as Tansey failed to clear the danger and the centre’s touchdown was confirmed by Roby and improved by Burns to open another 10-point gap.
Again Tigers came back – and hats off to Dixon, who began the set with a tremendous surge to return a kick from his own in-goal.
Five tackles later Tansey put up a kick, Eden let it bounce and Clark – who made a good impact off the bench – gathered, before showing great pace to slice through the defence.
Roby was no doubt studying his monitor before Clark neared the line.
He gave the green light and Dixon added his third goal.
A Webster break gave Cas another chance, but Rovers finished the stronger, Burns missing a late penalty attempt after former Leeds Rhinos forward Hauraki had been penalised for a shoulder charge.
The penalty count by referee Child was 10-4 in Hull KR’s favour.
Hull KR: Eden, Brown, Welham, Hall, D Hodgson, Burns, Dobson, Paea, J Hodgson, Tuimavave, Cox, Peterson, Griffin. Subs (all used): Carlile, Horne, Mika, Beaumont.
Castleford Tigers: Owen, Thompson, Shenton, Webster, Dixon, Chase, Tansey, Mason, Milner, Huby, Gilmour, Hauraki, Holmes. Subs (all used): Ellis, Clark, Millington, Massey.
Referee: James Child (Batley).