Castleford Tigers 38 Hull KR 24: Greg Eden hat-trick ends Castleford's poor run
GREG EDEN scored a hat-trick against his former club to finally bring Castleford Tigers out of their rut but things are never purely that simple for Daryl Powell’s side.
After an accident on the M62, they only arrived at the Totally Wicked Stadium barely five minutes before the planned 5.30pm kick-off time for their Super League game against Hull KR
Unsurprisingly, the start was put back an hour and it was all far from ideal for a Castleford squad that had lost eight of its last nine games.
Hull KR, of course, had their own matchday issues on the motorway but also with news that head coach Tony Smith needed to stand down for 14 days having come into close contact with someone who had subsequently tested positive for Covid.
Assistant coach Dave Hodgson, their former Great Britain winger, has taken over and will also be in charge for next week’s derby against Hull FC.
He got a baptism of fire as Castleford raced into a 24-0 lead inside just 25 minutes, all their troubles apparently behind them. They looked like a different team entirely.
By half-time, though, they were as shaky and nervous as they have been for much of the last two months, Danny Richardson slotting a penalty with the last kick of the half to make it 26-18 and temporarily halt KR’s rampant reply.
Indeed, it was not until winger Eden completed his treble in the 74th minute that they could finally rest easy.
Every game seems unusual in Super League at the moment, so perhaps it was no surprise that - after Robert Elstone announced shortly before kick-off that Hull’s KCOM Stadium would host the Grand Final on a Friday - that both sides had lost a player to injury inside the opening five minutes.
Castleford - who gave a debut to 18-year-old Hull-born full-back Bailey Hodgson - saw Nathan Massey depart with a rib issue and Rovers hooker Matt Parcell soon followed.
Tigers certainly dealt with the early setback better. Jacques O’Neill, the combative forward starting in his favoured hooker role, burrowed over from close range for their opener and soon after Alex Foster was bursting past some fragile defence for his first try in 18 months.
Chesye Blair made a clean break, too, and, Rovers’ problems continued as George Lawler lost the ball and then Ben Crooks spilled a high kick.
From the latter, Adam Milner showed real toughness to get in for Castleford’s third, rolling off Weller Hauraki’s challenge as the Hull KR captain came thundering out of the line and then twisting over between the posts.
Hauraki, the former Castleford forward, endured a poor five minutes as soon after his flick pass intended for Shaun Kenny-Dowall was picked off by Eden who raced in from 50m.
Richardson’s fourth conversion made it 24-0 but, in fairness, Rovers did have numbers on that right edge and it was a shot worth firing.
Perhaps that encouraged Hodgson’s side as they did finally find some rhythm soon after.
With their first venture into Castleford’s 20 - as late as the 27th minute - Robbie Mulhern blasted through Mike McMeeken to get them off the mark and, with Parcell returning to the field, they swiftly added another as Elliot Minchella touched down Jordan Abdull’s grubber.
Castleford’s discipline disappeared amid a raft of needless penalties and - especially given their recent lack of confidence - it was no surprise the East Yorkshire club heaped on more pressure with a well-worked effort that saw Rowan Milnes fool their defence to get Kenny-Dowall in.
Powell’s side re-emerged in better nick, however, and McShane’s clever runaround with Junior Moors allowed him to send Eden in for his second try at the start of the second half.
However, this Rovers team - whether under Smith or Hodgson - never go away and, predictably, they battled on regardless.
There were some nervous moments before Matty Gee’s ‘try’ was rightly disallowed but Parcell did sneak over, eluding Daniel Smith in the 65th minute for Will Dagger to add his fourth conversion.
But Eden made sure at the death as McShane and Moors produced the very same move as before and just as crisply to send him in for that hat-trick, Richardson missing the conversion but adding a late penalty.
Castleford Tigers: Hodgson, Olpherts, Blair, Shenton, Eden, Richardson, McShane, Milner, Moors, McMeeken, Smith, O’Neill, Massey. Substitutes: Sene-Lefao, Foster, Peachey, Martin.
Hull K R: Dagger, Crooks, Kenny-Dowall, Linnett, Rawsthorne, Abdull, Milnes, Lawler, Parcell, W. Maher, Hauraki, Hadley, Minchella. Substitutes: Mulhern, Lewis, Gee, King.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven)