CASTLEFORD TIGERS moved a step closer the Super League leaders’ shield – and did Leeds Rhinos a favour – with a 24-22 revenge win over Hull at the Jungle – but it was a close-run thing.
Tigers led 20-4 at the break and 24-10 with nine minutes left, but Hull staged a remarkable fightback to almost snatch the points.
Hull – who had beaten Cas twice earlier in the season, including a Challenge Cup win two weeks ago – scored four tries to three, but Tigers’ tactic of kicking penalty goals proved the difference between the sides.
Cas are now eight points clear at the top of the table and Hull remain third, one point behind Leeds – though Salford Red Devils will go second if they beat Huddersfield Giants tomorrow.
Gaps appeared in Tigers’ defence out wide in the second half, but they survived five sets on their own line in the second quarter, with Michael Shenton producing a try-saving tackle on Jamie Shaul and Jake Webster doing the same to Josh Griffin and that ensured they went into the break with a healthy lead.
Castleford’s attack never got into gear, but Luke Gale was influential in the first half, Zak Hardaker had a big game and there was a barnstorming effort off the bench by prop Gadwin Springer.
Hull scored first, on six minutes, when Jake Connor’s brilliant flick sent Mahe Fonua over for an unconverted try, but Gale pounced on Marc Sneyd’s poor pass to get Tigers off the mark six minutes later.
He converted and added a penalty soon afterwards when Hull were caught offside on their own line. On 22 minutes Gale kicked across field, Fetuli Talanoa dropped the ball backwards over the line and Mike McMeeken was on hand to touch down for a simple try which Gale improved.
On the stroke of half-time Jamie Shaul chipped over the defence and the ball rebounded off Gale to Hardaker who accelerated clear to score between the posts, making the conversion a formality.
That made it 20-4 and the scrum-half added another penalty 10 minutes into the second half.
The game got scrappy after that. Tigers’ Jy Hitchcox had a touchdown ruled out as play had stopped for an earlier offence and Sika Manu crossed for the visitors from Sneyd’s kick, but video referee Phil Bentham spotted a knock-on by Mark Minichiello.
Hull gave themselves hope with 14 minutes left when Fonua scored his second try, from Kelly’s pass and Sneyd added the extras, but that seemed to be extinguished when Gale landed a penalty nine minutes from time.
It was all Hull after that though, Sneyd twice converting from the touchline after Talanoa had crossed at the corner and the home team were hugely relieved to hear the final hooter.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker, Hitchcox, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Roberts, Gale, Sene-Lefao, McShane, Millington,Massey, McMeeken, Milner. Subs Foster, Springer, Patrick. Unused: T Holmes.
Hull: Shaul, Fonua, Connor, Griffin, Talanoa, Kelly, Sneyd, Bowden, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Washbrook, Manu. Subs Fash. Thompson, Taylor, Turgut.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).