Castleford Tigers 22 Hull Kingston Rovers 26 - late try spoils fans' return to the Jungle
After waiting 14 months for their return to the Jungle, Castleford Tigers' fans went away disappointed as Hull KR spoiled the welcome home party.
Tigers led 14-0 early on, but then lost their way and Rovers staged a storming fightback which was capped by Jordan Abdull’s try - which he converted off the touchline - a minute from time.
That goal proved crucial as Tigers got the ball back from a short restart and were awarded a penalty in kicking range after Rovers’ Korbin Sims was sin-binned for interference.
Tigers couldn’t really argue with the 26-22 result, having been out-scored by five tries to three and managing only a penalty goal in the second half.
They made too many errors and seemed to lack composure at times, though they put in a huge effort in a cracking, incident-packed game.
Tigers should have made more of their superiority in the first half, when Niall Evalds provided the final pass for all their tries and Oliver Holmes set a strong lead in the pack, but they created very little after the interval.
Tigers’ fans didn’t have to wait long for a try to cheer, James Clare opening the scoring inside three minutes.
Cas had already had an escape, inside the first 60 seconds, when Ryan Hall stormed down Rovers’ left and turned the ball inside to Abdull who knocked-on in Danny Richardson’s tackle.
Rovers were penalised in the aftermath and Clare - making his first appearance of 2021, following off-season knee surgery - crossed in the resulting set.
A terrific tackle from Holmes prevented George Lawler - who is expected to join Tigers next season - getting the ball down over the home side’s line, before Castleford doubled their lead.
Richardson and Jake Trueman handled from right to left and Evalds again provided the final ball, this time to Michael Shenton.
That was on 15 minutes and Tigers went 14-0 up at the end of the first quarter through a penalty from Richardson, to add to his two earlier conversions.
It hadn’t been one-way traffic up to that stage, but Tigers were comfortably in control.
The tide began to turn when former Tigers back Ben Crooks pulled a try back from Brad Takairangi’s pass and then Shaun Kenny-Dowall dropped the ball backwards and Matt Parcell scooped it up to touch down, Abdull converting both.
The second came after back-to-back penalties, the first of which was for a late challenge by Paul McShane on Abdull. McShane had begun the game on the bench, with Adam Milner starting at hooker.
Tigers looked rattled, but steadied the ship with a try just before the break, Derrell Olpherts’ putting on some nice footwork after Evalds’ pass had caught out the defence.
Richardson added the extras, but missed with a long-range penalty attempt after the half-time hooter.
The eight-point lead was no less than Tigers deserved, having had most of the territory in the opening period, but Rovers came out strongly after the break and were level just before the hour mark.
Firstly, Adam Quinlan sent Hall over on the left-flank and then on the other Crooks dived over spectacularly from Takairangi’s pass, though Abdull couldn’t convert either.
Neither side’s discipline was particularly good and Hull KR’s Matty Storton handed the lead back to Tigers when he was penalised for a needless foul on Trueman and Richardson took the two.
That was against the run of play and Tigers had to dig deep to hold up Jez Litten and then Parcell over the line.
It seemed they had done enough to hang on, but in the final seconds Abdull ghosted over the line for the clinching converted try after a huge spell of pressure, including a six-again.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Clare, Trueman, Richardson, Massey, Milner, Griffin, Holmes, Turner, Martin. Subs McShane, Sene-Lefao, Smith, Peachey.
Hull KR: Quinlan, Crooks, Takairangi, Kenny-Dowall, Hall, Milnes, Abdull, Lawler, Parcell, King, Linnett, Johnson, Hadley. Subs Sims, Litten, Storton, Maher.
Referee: Marcus Griffiths (Widnes).