CASTLEFORD TIGERS let a 10-point half-time lead slip as they were beaten 31-18 by Hull in a high-quality game at the Jungle last night.
Tigers took control with eight points in the final seven minutes of what had, until then, been a very tight first half.
The hosts led 14-4 at the interval, but Hull were the better side in the second period as Jake Connor and Albert Kelly took a grip on the game and Cas could have no complaints about the result.
They struck first after 11 minutes when Greg Minikin – who had made a terrific catch almost on his own line from Kelly’s kick – sliced through off Peter Mata’utia’s pass.
It had been set for set up to that point, but Mike McMeeken lost the ball a few plays after the restart and Hull were quickly level, Ratu Naulago touching down one-handed at the corner from Connor’s smart offload.
Neither try was converted, but Castleford opened a four-point gap through a couple of penalty goals kicked by Mata’utia. The first came after Jamie Shaul stole the ball from Daniel Smith, then Andre Savelio was penalised for interference on Jesse Sene-Lefao.
The big Tigers second-row was back in the side after compassionate leave in Australia and turned in a strong stint, his tackle – in tandem with Adam Milner – forcing the ball loose from Scott Taylor before the second penalty goal.
When Sene-Lefao went off, Junior Moors – returning from injury – replaced him and his try put a two-score gap between the teams. Jake Trueman’s low kick was dropped by Kelly and Moors scampered over, Mata’utia adding the extras.
Tigers looked in good shape at that stage, but Hull cut the gap on 47 minutes when Shaul put Naulago over at the corner and this time Marc Sneyd converted from the touchline.
Just five minutes later, Minikin knocked on at a play-the-ball near Cas’ line and, following the scrum, Connor broke past Greg Eden and Mata’utia and Kelly was in support to finish off.
Sneyd’s goal edged Hull two points ahead and that was four soon afterwards when the former Cas man took the two after Milner was penalised.
With 19 minutes left Eden stretched over to level the scores with an unconverted try from Cheyse Blair’s pass. That was confirmed by video referee James Child as was the try which restored Hull’s lead with 15 left. Sneyd’s kick was knocked back – either by Connor or Blair – and Kelly touched down, Sneyd converting.
In the next set Danny Houghton made a break, then Sneyd’s kick was taken by Connor and handed on to Shaul. Referee Robert Hicks thought it was a try, but Child overruled him, deciding the tackle had been complete before the centre offloaded.
That was a stroke of luck for Tigers and they almost took advantage with nine minutes left, but Eden could not take Blair’s pass close to the line. It was the decisive moment as Naulago picked up and blistering pace took him into Tigers’ half before Kelly finished off.
Sneyd’s conversion took him past 1,000 career points and he put the result beyond Cas with a late drop goal.
Castleford: Mata’utia, Clare, Minikin, Blair, Eden, Trueman, Rankin, Watts, McShane, Smith, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey. Substitutes: Millington, Milner, Moors, Cook.
Hull: Shaul, Naulago, Connor, Buchanan, Faraimo, Kelly, Sneyd, Green, Houghton, Paea, Minichiello, Hadley, Westerman. Substitutes: Taylor, Fash, Washbrook, Savelio.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham). Attendance: 6,344