Hull KR 26 Castleford Tigers 19: Jordan Abdull has crucial impact on comeback
JORDAN ABDULL returned from injury to fire Hull KR back into the top six - and leave Castleford Tigers’ play-off hopes up in the air.
Influential stand-off Abdull had been in the running for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel before fracturing his thumb six weeks ago.
However, he quickly got back into the swing of things with some crucial plays as Tony Smith’s side prospered on a dramatic night at Hull College Craven Park.
Castleford, who knew victory would seal them a place in the top six, led 19-12 approaching the hour mark.
But Abdull’s kicking game saw the hosts score tries via Matt Parcell - in the hooker’s 100th Super League game - and the inspirational Kane Linnett to turn the contest.
Castleford coach Daryl Powell knows his side must now beat Warrington Wolves - the club he joins at the end of the season - at Wheldon Road on Thursday night in their final regular game or his side are out and his reign is over.
If Castleford do lose, Rovers will be confirmed in the top-six.
If Tigers win, however, Smith’s team will need a victory at play-off rivals Leeds Rhinos on Friday in a straight shoot-out between those side for the final spot as the play-offs chase goes down to a thrilling finale.
There was controversy surrounding Parcell’s try, though.
Abdull hoisted a high kick which KR captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall appeared to knock forward when palming down.
Admittedly, Castleford’s Jesse Sene-Lefao should have done better clearing it up but he missed and Parcell pounced.
Referee James Child, though, chose not to consult the video referee and awarded the try which Abdull converted to leave them trailing just 19-18.
In the next set, Abdull then fired a wonderful 40/20 kick and from there, Linnett burrowed over from close range off Parcell’s short pass for his 13th try of the year.
Abdull converted the 58th minute effort to put his side 24-19 in front but then Rovers saw Greg Minkin limp off.
He joined Ryan Hall on the sidelines, KR’s England winger whose 300th Super League game ended with him being withdrawn at half-time due to a shoulder injury.
Castleford pressed hard - Michael Shenton fluffed one overlap, Adam Milner was held up over the goalline and Alex Foster made a strong break with no support - but they had no finish.
Instead, with the game in the final minute and Abdull shaping for another drop goal, Danny Richardson rushed off his line to try and force a mistake and win back the ball.
He was offside, though, and Hull College Craven Park erupted at the knowledge Abdull would have the simplest of kicks to secure victory.
Beforehand, fans from both clubs gave Mose Masoe a rousing, standing ovation as he brought the match ball - which had travelled around the world to raise money for the charity set up to help the former Rovers prop following his life-changing injury - onto the field ahead of kick-off.
Castleford led 13-12 at the break but quickly extended their advantage when Niall Evalds scored his second try of the night in the 43rd minute.
It came following some slick handling to the left and then a wonderful offload from his captain Shenton.
Evalds almost got his hat-trick when Milner, who excelled at hooker in the continued absence of Man of Steel Paul McShane, set him racing free on halfway.
However, Castleford-born Will Dagger chased the Tigers full-back down with a fine try-saving tackle to keep Rovers in touch.
It proved crucial; soon after, the hosts scored themselves via Parcell.
Mikey Lewis had got KR off to a perfect start after just six minutes when he followed Linnett as the Australian second-row bumped off Derrell Olpherts and then Pete Mata’utia to advance down the left from halfway.
Abdull slotted the first of his five goals. However, Castleford responded just six minutes later when Oli Holmes found some space of his own cutting back off Richardson’s ball to leave George King flailing, Evalds the player on hand to go over.
Richardson improved but his side were grateful to Shenton when he produced a brilliant try-saving tackle on former team-mate Ben Crooks, just as it looked like Brad Takairangi and Greg Minkin had created space for the winger.
Moments later, Tigers scored at the other end as Richardson’s deft inside pass got Evalds through the middle, Milner found an offload and Castleford exploited gaps on KR’s left edge to get Olpherts over.
Richardson - in his 100th career appearance - once more converted and his side should have added a third try straight from the restart set but Jordan Turner blew a simple pass which would have unleashed Olpherts from his own 20m.
Instead, the ball went into touch and, though they survived that attack, the visitors invited more pressure when Shenton failed to correctly play the ball.
Further Castleford errors meant more pressure was applied and, so, when Jame Clare and then Richardson failed to gather a high Abdull kick, they had another set on the visitors’ line which led to Lewis darting over for his second try.
He left Holmes, one of Super League’s top defenders, on the ground and Richardson, too.
Abdull’s kick levelled the contest and Castleford continued to err too often, Turner spilling a simple pass in good position and then his side somehow letting Abdull’s short drop-out bounce into touch.
They were fortunate as well to gain a penalty when Turner seemed to fumble while trying to play the ball and, from there, Richardson slotted a drop goal in the 39th minute to see his side lead narrowly at the break.
It would not be enough.
Hull KR: Dagger; Crooks, Minikin, Kenny-Dowall, Hall; Lewis, Abdull; King, Parcell, Maher, Linnett, Takairangi, Storton. Substitutes: Vete, Litten, Johnson, Keinhorst.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds; Olpherts, Turner, Shenton, Clare; Mata’utia, Richardson; Griffin, Milner, Smith, Holmes, Sene-Lefao, Massey. Substitutes: Foster, O’Neill. Hepi, Matagi.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury)