PROLIFIC captain Michael Shenton scored four tries as Castleford Tigers battled to a an opening Super-8s victory in thrilling style last night.
But the hosts needed more than the England centre’s heroics to see off gutsy Hull FC who would simply not go away.
It wasn’t until a brilliant passage of play in the 78th minute that Castleford finally made sure of a win that sees them draw level with Huddersfield Giants in fourth place.
Mike McMeeken made a crucial cover tackle to deny Hull’s Richard Whiting in the corner and then winger Justin Carney leapt high to defuse Marc Sneyd’s crossfield kick and storm 50m down field to alleviate the danger.
Moments later, Ashley Gibson scrambled over in the corner for the hosts in the winger’s 150th career game, Luke Gale adding his sixth goal of the night – only for Jack Logan to immediately hit back for the desperate visitors whose hopes of finishing in the top four are now already worryingly slim.
Hull, who lost ex-England centre Kirk Yeaman to a knee injury late on, started apace with Whiting and Jordan Rankin exposing early lethargy and ill-discipline among the Cas ranks for Sneyd to make it 12-0 after just five minutes. But then Shenton came to the fore with a first-half treble in the space of just 15 minutes.
The second of those marked the 150th try of the 29-year-old’s career and with Gale improving two of Tigers’ scores, Daryl Powell’s side built up a 16-12 advantage.
With Andy Lynch powering forward relentlessly and hooker Paul McShane on debut after his move from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, they looked good value for a win.
However, Hull scored a controversial try on the stroke of half-time – referee Robert Hicks missing a blatant forward pass from ex-Castleford stand-off Sneyd in the build-up as Steve Michaels scrambled over in the corner.
That said, some of the earlier tacking on another former Tiger Jordan Thompson was particularly tepid but, nevertheless, Sneyd’s third successful conversion sent his side in 18-16 ahead.
When Gale’s pass went to ground early in the second period, Tom Lineham raced 90m to score, Sneyd further extending his side’s lead.
But Castleford, eager to bounce back after a 44-6 hammering to Warrington Wolves on their last Wheldon Road outing, showed their spirit again with Shenton’s fourth.
Oli Holmes produced a brilliant one-on-one rip from Rankin as the Hull full-back tried to surge clear from his own 20m and then found Shenton who barged off some clueless tackling to score again, Gale bringing the difference to just two. It was the scrum-half who was on hand to support Holmes’ break, converts just after the hour to put them in control.
Shenton thought he had fifth but that was disallowed after a stupid challenge from Carney when attacking a kick.
Gale slotted a penalty, though, and his side eventually staved off a third successive defeat against the visitors.
Castleford Tigers: Roberts; Gibson, Webster, Shenton, Carney; Finn, Gale; Lynchy, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Moors, Massey. Substitutes: Milner, Cook, McMeeken, Springer.
Hull FC: Rankin; Lineham, Sa, Logan, Michaels; Sneyd, Abdull; Paea, Houghton, Watts, Whiting, Minichiello, Westerman. Substitutes: Thompson, Paleaaesina, Green, Yeaman.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham)