PROLIFIC captain Michael Shenton scored four tries for Castleford Tigers last night but such was the bizarre nature of this frenetic encounter the England centre still almost ended up on the losing side.
If Daryl Powell’s side had lost having dominated for the majority of their opening Super 8s encounter, they would probably not deserve to reach the top four which is their ultimate aim.
But they didn’t and, instead, showed all the spirit and character that they hope will underpin an eventual surge to Old Trafford.
Still, it wasn’t until a brilliant passage of play in the 78th minute that Castleford – who had lost their last two games against Hull this season – 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 visit champions St Helens on Friday, had big efforts from the likes of Whiting, Liam Watts and Iafeta Paleaaesina but badly lacked control when it mattered most, were too sloppy in defence and were perhaps fortunate to even be in the contest after a couple of refereeing decisions went their way.
They could slip to eighth if Catalans defeat St Helens today, are already six points adrift of Castleford and Huddersfield who hold that crucial fourth spot and it would need a miracle to qualify for the semi-finals.
They lost ex-England centre Kirk Yeaman to a knee injury late on, too, but started at apace with Whiting and Jordan Rankin exposing early lethargy and ill-discipline among the Castleford ranks for Sneyd to make it 12-0 after just five minutes.
But then Shenton came to the fore with a first-half treble, the blast coming in the space of just 15 minutes.
The second of those marked the 150th try of his career and with Gale improving two of Tigers’ scores, 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-one-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’s 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 East Yorkshire club.
Castleford welcome Warrington here on Thursday for a vital televised game which will have a big say on whether they can push on and achieve their aims.
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: R Hicks (Oldham).