CASTLEFORD TIGERS are favourites to snatch the fifth and final play-offs spot after out-classing rivals Hull at the Jungle last night.
Tigers’ huge 44-12 win moved them into fifth place in Betfred Super League, ahead of Hull on points difference and they will qualify if they win at Wigan Warriors next week or the Black and Whites lose to visitors St Helens.
The trip to DW Stadium is a tough assignment, but Tigers can be comforted by the knowledge that on recent form Hull couldn’t beat an egg, never mind the runaway league leaders.
Going into the game two points behind Hull it was a must-win for Castleford and they played like their season depended on it.
Stand-off Jake Trueman was the inspiration, scoring a brilliant hat-trick, setting up two more tries and making a crucial tackle.
Trueman’s pass sent Cheyse Blair over to break his duck for the club and then the reigning Super League player of the year crossed twice to put Tigers in total command at the end of the first quarter.
Hull couldn’t cope with Tigers’ pace or power and were lucky to still be in the game, which wouldn’t have been the case had Greg Minikin scored a fourth try.
He was tackled into touch just short and Hull scored moments later, on the half hour, through Masi Matongo, to keep things interesting.
They almost cut the gap further a minute before the interval when Tevita Sata forced his way over the line, but Trueman got underneath to hold him up.
Trueman’s third score, moments after half-time, settled Tigers’ nerves and, despite a brief Hull response, they ran away with it late on, scoring three tries in the final 10 minutes.
Blair had gone 14 games for Tigers, since signing from Melbourne Storm, without getting over the whitewash, but finally ended his drought after eight minutes.
Jordan Rankin made a break from Liam Watt’s offload and the Australian centre went over from Trueman’s pass.
A lovely dummy close to the line took Trueman over for his first soon afterwards and then the stand-off burst through some poor defence by Mickey Paea and Sika Manu.
Jamie Ellis converted all three and added a penalty following interference by Danny Houghton on Jesse Sene-Lefao.
Tigers were totally dominant up until the Minikin’s near-miss, but then Matongo stretched over from Albert Kelly’s pass, Marc Sneyd adding the extras and Hull applied some pressure leading up to Trueman’s try-saving tackle on Satae. Trueman completed his hat-trick at the start of the second half after Tigers reacted quickly when Ratu Naulago spilled Jack Logan’s pass deep in Hull territory. Ellis’s conversion re-established Cas’ 20-point lead and they almost got another when Dan Smith thought he had got a hand to Paul McShane’s grubber, but video referee Robert Hicks said no.
Hull went down to 12 men when Jamie Shaul was sin-binned for holding down Rankin after making a try-saving tackle, but moments later Carlos Tuimavave trapped
Rankin’s kick and slipped the ball to Logan who went 80 metres for a touchdown which Sneyd improved and those were the only points scored during Sneyd’s absence.
Cas scored their fifth try with 10 minutes left when Rankin sent James Clare over.
Five minutes after that Trueman slid a grubber behind Hull’s line and Rankin capped a strong game by touching down.
Jake Connor became the second Hull man shown a yellow card, for dissent, and in the set from the penalty Matt Cook marked his return – after losing his voice – with a try.
Ellis converted all three to maintain his 100 per cent record with the boot.
Castleford Tigers: Rankin, Clare, Mata’utia, Blair, Minikin, Trueman, Ellis, Watts, McShane, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey. Subs Holmes, Milner, Cook, Smith.
Hull: Shaul, Naulogo, Tuimavave, Connor, Logan, Kelly, Sneyd, Taylor, Houghton, Paea, Griffin, Manu, Ellis. Subs Bowden, Matongo, Minichiello, Satae.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Former Hull KR and Leeds centre Thomas Minns will make his return from a drugs ban with Championship club Featherstone.
The 25-year-old was sacked by the Robins after testing positive for cocaine use in 2018 but was given a second chance by the club having completed a 16-month suspension, but injury meant he didn’t play.
He has now been offered a two-year deal with Fev from 2020.