HALTING CASTLEFORD Tigers’ formidable attacking machine has proved a tall order for most teams this year, but having to do it with 12 men would seem an impossible task.
Yet Hull, who had conceded more than 50 points in each of their previous two home games, defied the odds to complete a remarkable 26-24 success and inflict Castleford’s second defeat in a week.
The home team were leading 18-0 after 22 minutes when their prop-forward Liam Watts was dismissed by referee Robert Hicks following a high tackle on Castleford’s half-back Luke Gale.
The loss of Gale proved far more harmful to Castleford than Watts’ absence was for Hull. The Black and Whites, who were without Man of Steel Danny Houghton for a fifth successive game, responded with a magnificent defensive display while Tigers lacked their usual cutting edge in attack.
Despite scoring five tries to four, the Super League leaders – who could have gone two points clear of second-placed Leeds Rhinos – were never quite able to get on terms.
Castleford were in full Harlem Globetrotters mode, hurling the ball around and trying to score on every play when more composure was needed.
Hull’s scrambling defence near their own line withstood a ferocious barrage and they were worthy winners.
The red card changed the momentum of the game after Hull had made a dazzling start, running in three tries in the opening 14 minutes.
It was a lethal display of finishing by the hosts, all three scores coming on the back of penalties conceded by Castleford.
Scott Taylor forced his way past Zak Hardaker for the opener after just five minutes and two later Mahe Fonua, who had an outstanding game, squeezed in at the corner from a top-class offload by Jake Connor.
When Castleford finally got a sight of Hull’s line Ben Roberts was penalised for complaining about a forward pass decision and in the resulting set Marc Sneyd’s kick was knocked back by Connor and Fonua touched down again.
Sneyd converted all three – the second via a post – but Castleford’s fightback began within seconds of the sending-off when Greg Minikin shrugged off Sneyd to get over from Jake Webster’s pass.
Then a Sneyd kick to the corner was well claimed by Greg Eden, who raced into Castleford’s half. He was hauled down by Albert Kelly, but Roberts dummied over from acting-half after Mike McMeeken had gone close.
The try was awarded despite a suspicion of a double-movement. Sneyd landed a long-range penalty – after a high tackle by Oliver Holmes on Connor – five minutes before the interval. But Castleford illustrated why they are Super League’s most exciting team to watch with a glorious score on the final play of the half.
Roberts began the move by breaking from inside his own territory and Webster was in support to provide the final pass for Michael Shenton.
Roberts had failed to convert the opening two tries so Paul McShane, who moved into the halves after Gale went off, took over kicking duties and added the extras to cut Hull’s half-time lead to six points.
The manner of that try suggested Castleford would eventually force their way back into the game, but Hull’s resolve in the second half proved too strong.
They survived some heavy pressure early on before Sneyd landed a penalty goal following a high tackle by Jesse Sene-Lefao, seconds after missing with a similar effort when the ball was stolen from Fonua by McShane.
Junior Moors and McShane spilled the ball on the line either side of a fourth try for Castleford, Roberts going over from a pass by Millington.
Again the conversion was missed and Hull took a grip on the game with 17 minutes left. Kelly kicked to Hull’s left and Steve Michaels got to the ball ahead of Joel Monaghan, turning it inside to send Carlos Tuimavave over. Though Sneyd could not add the extras Hull had a two-score lead and Castleford never really threatened to pull the game from the fire.
They did score a fifth try on the final play of the game, but the hooter had gone before McShane – ironically after Tigers’ poor goalkicking earlier on – landed a towering conversion from the touchline.
Hull: Shaul, Fonua, Tuimavave, Connor, Michaels, Kelly, Sneyd, Taylor, Washbrook, Watts, Manu, Minichiello, Ellis. Subs Green, Thompson, Turgut, Fash.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker, Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Roberts, Gale, Lynch, McShane, Springer, O Holmes, McMeeken, Milner. Subs Millington, Sene-Lefao, Moors, Monaghan.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).