ROOKIE Curtis Naughton scored his first professional hat-trick as relieved Hull FC survived a Castleford Tigers fightback to hold on for a crucial victory Challenge Cup sixth round win.
Lee Radford’s side had started in fine fashion building up a 16-0 lead inside just 17 minutes as they made the most of their visitors early lethargy.
But revived Castleford replied with three consecutive tries to get to 16-14 and growing confidence heading into the final quarter.
However, Jordan Rankin grabbed the first of his brace to ease nerves and winger Naughton raced 70m in spectacular style to clinch his hat-trick and knock out last season’s beaten finalists.
Naughton, a 20-year-old from Dewsbury who spent last season with Sydney Roosters’ second string after leaving Bradford Bulls, made an instant impact after being called up as a replacement for 13-try Tom Lineham.
The club’s top scorer was dropped after a poor display in the win at Warrington and Naughton - who had only made three earlier appearances this term - took his chance showing his own finishing potential.
The first was a bizarre affair. The danger for Castleford seemed to have passed when a high kick bounced back 15m away from their goalline and James Clare battled with Naughton for possession on the floor.
The Hull man emerged with it - and suddenly got back to his feet and had enough space to scramble to the corner past shocked Tigers captain Michael Shenton.
Naughton’s second on 13 minutes was a far classier effort.
Mickey Paea’s lovely slipped pass near halfway saw fellow prop Liam Watts racing clear down the middle and, after Marc Sneyd was closed down in support, Hull held their nerve to keep the ball alive and spread it to the right where the former Bradford Bulls youngster finished again.
Sneyd this time converted and Castleford were in disarray as Jordan Rankin made another long-range break from the restart.
They did not score but, after Shenton knocked on trying to intercept, Radford’s side did do in the resultant set, Paea marking his comeback from a two-game ban by crashing over from a well-worked but predictable set move close to the Castleford line.
Sneyd improved brilliantly from the touchline and Powell knew he needed a quick response.
He made a treble substitution with forwards Lee Jewitt, Grant Millington and Mike McMeeken replacing Ryan Bailey, Junior Moors and Nathan Massey and the injection of fresh legs certainly brought more energy to their play.
Liam Finn also came on at half-back and his smart pass saw Oli Holmes through a gap only to be held up.
However, they scored moments later when the visitors found some rhythm to move the ball wide for Jordan Tansey to send winger Ashley Gibson over in the 32nd minute
Luke Gale missed the kick but then took control for Castleford as they began probing away at the hosts.
Clare should have scored a second but Shenton’s pass, after another fluid move stretched Hull, came a little too early and the defence managed to scramble across to shove the winger into touch.
Still, Castleford did force two drop-outs before the break leaving the Airlie Birds glad of the hooter.
Powell’s side continued where they left off, though, when starting the second period and, with more crisp handling, this time Shenton did get Clare over in the 43rd minute, Gale curling in the conversion to leave the deficit at just six points.
When Holmes dropped the ball in front of his posts straight after, Hull sensed a chance to quickly regain some order.
Leon Pryce looked to have done that when the rangy stand-off sidestepped over from close range but, as he stretched to touch down under pressure from Castleford defenders, the ex-Great Britain star spilled.
It proved costly as his opponents surged straight back up the other end to score once more in the 47th minute, this time young second-row McMeeken getting his first for the club since joining from London Broncos last winter.
Jake Webster had climbed high to compete and win Finn’s kick before brilliantly smuggling the ball out of the tackle for his team-mate to cross.
Gale, however, missed a kick he would ordinarily convert so Hull still led narrowly.
They saw former Castleford forward Jordan Thompson, one of their best players this season, stretchered off soon after while captain Gareth Ellis (dead leg) and Setaimata Sa also departed injured but their luck did turn when Finn unusually chipped a kick out on the full.
That handed the hosts possession on halfway and, from there, Sneyd teased his way across the line before finding Rankin, the full-back who hit the line at pace and left Gibson grounded to score in the corner with 19 minutes remaining.
Sneyd missed another conversion but when Castleford hooker Adam Milner hung on too long after tackling a breakaway Danny Houghton, the Hull scrum-half slotted the easy penalty to crucially give his side some breathing space once more.
Naughton then raced in for his treble in the 70th minute, showing real confidence to slow down and then speed past Tansey, and, when Tansey’s kick-off then didn’t go 10m, Hull made sure with Rankin’s second, before Kirk Yeaman got in on the act, too.
Sneyd, who played at Wembley for Castleford last year, finished with six kicks as they made tomorrow’s quarter-final draw.
Hull’s victory, a sixth in seven games, sets them up nicely for Friday’s visit from champions St Helens.
On Naughton, Radford said: “It’s a funny one as we got warned off signing Curt when I spoke to some people who knew him and were involved with him.
“But since he’s been at the club he’s been fantastic.
“He really likes the surroundings and it’s showing the way he’s playing and training.
“Tom’s sat in the stands. Concentration wise at Warrington he probably wasn’t at his best and cost us one or two tries so this change was one we were always going to make.
“It’s Curt’s shirt to lose now.
“It was a great win. We knew we’d have to play for 80 minutes against Castleford as that’s what Daryl’s sides are like. “We only had one interchange in the second half with three off injured but the lads dug deep and it was really pleasing.”
Powell was furious with his side.
“We had a chance after getting back into it at 16-14,” he said.
“But our game management was poor, there was too many errors, twice kicking out on the full and, though we’re getting in fights, when it gets tight we just then get bored and fed up of staying in the fight.
“We try and score off every play, there’s no patience and I’ve had enough of it now. I’m getting bored of us getting bored. It’s not good enough.
“The players need to get to grips with it.”
Hull FC: Rankin; Naughton, Talanoa, Yeaman, Michaels; Pryce, Sneyd; Watts, Houghton, Paea, Minichello, Sa, Ellis. Substitutes: Abdull, Thompson, Green, Whiting.
Castleford Tigers: Tansey; Gibson, Webster, Shenton, Clare; Roberts, Gale; Lynch, Milner, Bailey, Holmes, Moors, Massey. Substitutes: Millington, Jewitt, McMeeken, Finn.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury)