Hull FC made light work of a weakened Castleford Tigers to book their place in the Super League play-offs and effectively end Wigan Warriors’ title defence.
Lee Radford’s team needed to beat the Tigers in their final Super 8s fixture to confirm their top-four spot and they did so in style with a thumping 48-16 victory.
Hull will travel to Leeds for next Friday’s second semi-final, while Castleford will host St Helens 24 hours earlier unless champions Wigan defeat Wakefield by an improbable 90-point margin on Saturday.
Albert Kelly and Jake Connor scored back-to-back early tries after Castleford failed to deal with high kicks and it was virtually job done for Hull when Danny Houghton went over in similar fashion.
Debutant Tuoyo Egodo got the Tigers on the board but Jamie Shaul’s scintillating long-range try underlined Hull’s title credentials before Connor made it 28-6 at the break.
Egodo was celebrating a hat-trick in the early stages of the second half after quick-fire tries only for Connor to complete his treble to end any hopes of a Castleford comeback.
The Tigers will take on Saints – the only other side to beat them at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle in 2017 – on the back of a heavy defeat after Carlos Tuimavave and Shaul completed the scoring.
Castleford coach Daryl Powell opted to rest a host of key players with one eye on next Thursday’s semi-final.
Teenager Jake Trueman, fresh from his hat-trick heroics against Wigan, retained his place with Luke Gale still injured, while Zak Hardaker, Oliver Holmes, Nathan Massey, Grant Millington, Adam Milner and captain Michael Shenton were also absent.
Hull had beaten the dominant Tigers twice and lost narrowly in their other previous 2017 meeting and they arrived at the Jungle with 16 members of their Challenge Cup-winning line-up.
Man of Steel nominee Kelly settled any nerves by going over next to the posts after Liam Watts had opened Castleford up with good footwork and then laid on a try for Connor to give Hull the perfect start.
Hooker Danny Houghton had already had a close-range effort ruled out when he slid over from Marc Sneyd’s well-weighted dab through and the Black and Whites had the match wrapped up by half-time.
Egodo, who gave up a banking career in London to try his luck in Super League, enjoyed a moment to savour after taking Mike McMeeken’s pass out wide but his debut try did little to halt Hull’s momentum.
Dummy-half Shaul raced in from 60 metres after finding a big gap in the Castleford defence and the hosts were staring down the barrel of a huge loss when Connor took Kelly’s pass to crash over.
Egodo strolled in from Greg Eden’s ball as Castleford made a strong start to the second half backed by a raucous home crowd.
The Tigers fans sensed an unlikely comeback when Eden, the competition’s runaway top tryscorer, put Egodo over for his hat-trick.
Connor silenced the Castleford supporters with his third try from another Kelly pass and Sneyd’s fifth goal of the night took him past 1,000 points in Super League.
A 35-metre Sneyd penalty gave Hull a 20-point lead and it was officially a rout when Fetuli Talanoa cut in off his wing to put Tuimavave under the posts for a try.
Hull’s Shaul danced through the Castleford defence late on to complete the home side’s misery.
Castleford Tigers: Eden, Hitchcox, Monaghan, Webster, Egodo, T. Holmes, Trueman, Cook, McShane, Springer, Foster, McMeeken, Larroyer. Substitutes: Lynch, Sene-Lefao, Roberts, Maher.
Hull FC: Shaul, Fonua, Connor, Tuimavave, Talanoa, Kelly, Sneyd, Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Manu, Ellis. Substitutes: Bowden, Fash, Green, Washbrook.
Referee: B Thaler (RFL).