Castleford Tigers 22 Hull KR 26: Jordan Abdull's late try ruins it for Castleford fans

Firstly, the winner, unreservedly, was rugby league.

After 14 months with no fans in English grounds, seeing supporters finally making their way back last night was the story.

However, more precisely, on the pitch here at Wheldon Road, the winner was Hull KR who gained sweet revenge for last month’s painful Challenge Cup defeat against Castleford Tigers in a fittingly dramatic affair.

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Jordan Abdull’s 78th minute try, as the quaklity scrum-half crabbed across field and swatted off Peter Mata'utia, gave the Robins a third win in four games and utterly ruined the hosts’ homecoming in front of a sold-out 3,600 crowd.

A handful of Hull KR fans who managed to get in tonight's restricted capacity game at Castleford Tigers celebrate their side's win. (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

Even then victory was not quite confirmed; referee Marcus Griffiths missed a blatant Castleford knock-on at the short restart and yellow-carded Rovers prop Korbin Sims for laying on in the tackle as he tried to eat up the seconds.

There was no saving grace for Daryl Powell’s side, though, as they slipped to only a second defeat of the year.

Hull KR coach Tony Smith, in contrast, could savour a hard-fought success which continued their recent resurgence away from the wrong end of the table.

“It was tough," he said.

Castleford Tigers can't believe it as Jordan Abdull puts Hull KR ahead for the first time in the game. (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

“They dominated us physically in the first half; they played way too quick for us and we conceded way too many penalties.

“We couldn’t get a ‘six again’ for love nor money; it was 48 minutes into the game.

“But having said that, we felt confident, even at half-time of bringing it home.

“And we were very good in the second half.

Hull KR's Ben Crooks scores his second try (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

“We were up against it but we did it very well.

“I loved the fight in my boys. We need to improve in some areas but they fought hard for each other.”

Tigers will be fuming; they were 20-12 ahead at the break having led 14-0 at one point but spent most of the second period simply battling to get out of their own half.

Rovers, of course, had been 22-6 and 32-18 ahead in that Cup tie at Hull College Craven Park only to lose in extra-time: they were due this sort of triumph.

Castleford Tigers' Derrell Olpherts scores against Hull KR. (ALLAN MCKENZIE/SWPIX)

After their slovenly start, the Robins had found rhythm, aided as ever by the likes of Matt Parcell and Ryan Hall, and Tigers were on the backfoot.

That said, Castleford could have made it far easier; at 20-12, Jake Trueman failed to take Paul McShane’s pass on his own 40m with a clear run in front and Rovers capitalised to start taking control.

Adam Quinlan squeezed out a lovely flick pass for Hall to score his seventh try of the campaign before Sims got close only to be penalised for a double movement following Adam Milner’s shuddering hit.

Still, Rovers did level in the 58th minute when McShane’s pressured kick was picked up by Rowan Milnes, the rangy stand-off who raced downfield only to be denied by Milner’s desperate ankle tap.

Nevertheless, they got in moments later when Ben Crooks, the former Castleford winger recalled after Ethan Ryan’s injury, came up with a spectacular finish for his second try of the night.

The home side got out of their half long enough for Danny Richardson to put them back ahead with a 63rd minute penalty but then the onslaught arrived.

Oli Holmes, once more superb for Castleford, made a try-saving tackle on Parcell and then Jez Litten was held up.

When Parcell limped off you sensed Hull KR may lose their drive but they kept coming, led expertly by Abdull and Brad Takairangi.

McShane thought he had a 40/20 kick but the referee deemed otherwise and then Castleford full-back Niall Evalds had to produce another try-saver on the inspirational Rovers captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

Castleford were missing front-row duo Liam Watts and Grant Millington but Rovers saw their prop George King come off in the first period with a worrying hip injury. The home side were 14-0 up inside just 20 minutes and threatening to do to Hull KR what Hull KR did to them in the Challenge Cup last month.

Back then, it all went horribly wrong. Not this time. Even after that shaky start.

In their first set, Hall had been put clear down the left by Kenny-Dowall but his pass inside to Abdull was clunky, allowing Richardson to get back and avert the danger.

Instead, it was Castleford who opened the scoring inside just five minutes.

Evalds came into the line to provide the telling pass for James Clare, the fit-again winger who scored with his first touch of the season.

Richardson slotted the first of his four goals but his side were forced to defend their own line on numerous occasions, Holmes with a remarkable tackle behind the goalline that somehow denied George Lawler.

Similarly, Dean Hadley was prevented from touching down and Castleford doubled their lead when George Griffin set up position to strike left once more, Evalds this time ushering captain Michael Shenton over.

When Rovers were caught offside next set, Richardson added the penalty for that impressive lead. Nevertheless, that was soon narrowed down to 14-12 when George Griffin fumbled playing the ball near his own line to gift Crooks an immediate response with KR’s first try.

Abdull converted added their second soon after. It came after McShane - not long on the field after surprisingly starting on the bench - conceded a penalty for a late, high tackle on Abdull.

The Man of Steel was fortunate not to see a card but KR made the hooker pay for the indiscretion as Kenny-Dowall - denied again at the line - squeezed out a scruffy loose ball for Parcell to dive over, Abdull making it 14-12.

Castleford managed to respond, just a minute before the break when Evalds - with his third such play - this time found a pass down the right for Derrell Olpherts to weave over smartly, Richardson improving.

The second half, though, was a different matter as Rovers, full of spirit and drive, plus so much firepower down their left edge, forced their way back for a deserved win.

Castleford Tigers: Evalds; Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Clare; Trueman, Richardson; Massey, Milner, Griffin, Holmes, Turner, Martin. Substitutes: McShane, Sene-Lefao, Smith, Peachey.

Hull KR: Quinlan; Crooks, Takairangi, Kenny-Dowall, Hall; Milnes, Abdull; Lawler, Parcell, King, Linnett, Johnson, Hadley. Substitutes: Sims, Litten, Storton, Maher.

Referee: Marcus Griffiths (Widnes).