Hull FC 32 Castleford Tigers 30: Joe Westerman almost has last laugh as hosts hold on in thriller

There was excitement in the air as Hull FC ushered in a new era under Tony Smith in front of a bumper crowd – but one man was never likely to enjoy his day out at the MKM Stadium.

The build-up to the round one clash was overshadowed by the Joe Westerman sex scandal, manna from heaven for creative supporters who love nothing more than to get stuck into former players.

The Castleford Tigers loose forward, who spent seven years at Hull across two spells, was the subject of taunts from the moment he stepped off the bus.

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It was all of his own making, of course, after videos of the 33-year-old engaged in a sex act with a woman in public went viral.

The Hull fans, allied with a slick and energetic performance on the field, ensured Westerman's hangover extended into Sunday evening – but the hosts very nearly blew it.

Backed by a crowd of 15,383, the Black and Whites were cruising at 32-6 with 20 minutes remaining.

They were perhaps guilty of putting the cue on the rack amid a series of Westerman chants and that was all the encouragement Castleford needed as they set up a grandstand finish.

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In the end, Hull just about held on and will reflect on a positive first outing under Smith once the dust settles.

Joe Westerman was in the spotlight at the MKM Stadium. (Photo: PA)Joe Westerman was in the spotlight at the MKM Stadium. (Photo: PA)
Joe Westerman was in the spotlight at the MKM Stadium. (Photo: PA)

Smith fielded four debutants and they had an immediate impact as the Black and Whites look to put another late-season collapse behind them.

Jake Clifford and Tex Hoy took to Super League like ducks to water, with the former Newcastle Knights pair running the show to hint at a brighter season for Hull.

Brad Dwyer was as lively as ever – which in turn brought the best out of Danny Houghton – while Liam Sutcliffe marked his debut with a try.

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Smith spoke in the build-up about getting the supporters back onside early after a series of blowout defeats on home soil at the end of 2022.

Danny Houghton celebrates his try. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/ Houghton celebrates his try. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/
Danny Houghton celebrates his try. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/

It was clear from the start that the Black and Whites were in the mood, Clifford forcing a drop-out at the end of a promising first set before Dwyer was held up.

One moment aside when Jake Mamo threatened to race away down the left flank, it was all Hull in the early stages as they took a firm grip on the contest.

As impressive as the hosts were, Castleford's discipline and goal-line defence left a lot to be desired.

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The Black and Whites opened their 2023 account in the seventh minute after a high shot by Kenny Edwards gave them perfect field position, Hoy's superb long pass giving Darnell McIntosh a walk-in try.

Darnell McIntosh scores his second try against Castleford. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/ McIntosh scores his second try against Castleford. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/
Darnell McIntosh scores his second try against Castleford. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/

Before they knew it, the Tigers were back behind their posts as Hull went over again from the restart.

Dwyer made a trademark break from just inside his own half and former Leeds Rhinos team-mate Sutcliffe was in support to apply the finishing touches.

To say Castleford were off the pace would be an understatement, with McIntosh's second highlighting their issues.

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Chris Satae's offload opened the Tigers up on their left edge and although Ben McNamara's pass went to ground, McIntosh had all the time in the world to trap the ball with his foot and finish.

Clifford missed his first conversion of the afternoon from out wide but the Black and Whites had made an emphatic early statement.

They suffered a setback when former winger Bureta Faraimo touched down in the corner from Niall Evalds' scruffy pass but normal service swiftly resumed.

After Edwards went close for Castleford from Paul McShane's grubber kick, it was one-way traffic through to the end of the first half.

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Adam Swift went into the interval with a double to his name after finishing two scrum plays, the second from another sublime Hoy pass.

Hull were 26-6 up at the break and seemingly ruled out the possibility of an unlikely Castleford comeback once the action resumed.

The Tigers found themselves on the back foot again after Kane Evans' offload sent Joe Cator racing clear and could not recover, McNamara sending Houghton over later in the set.

Believing the points were in the bag, the home fans set about taunting Westerman with a repertoire of songs.

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That together with a drop-off in intensity from Hull seemed to spark Castleford into life.

The Tigers went back to back to give themselves a glimmer of hope heading into the closing stages.

First Edwards steamed over virtually untouched before Jacob Miller exchanged passes with Mamo to score a debut try.

When Faraimo scored on the back of an error by Hoy and Gareth Widdop added a fourth conversion, Hull were left facing an awkward final 11 minutes.

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The hosts were hanging on for dear life after Mamo touched down next to the posts but could let out a huge sigh of relief when Sutcliffe shut down a Castleford Hail Mary play on the final hooter.

Hull FC: Hoy, Swift, Sutcliffe, Scott, McIntosh, Clifford, McNamara, Satae, Dwyer, Taylor, Lane, Griffin, Fash. Substitutes: Houghton, Lovodua, Cator, Evans.

Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Faraimo, Fonua, Turner, Mamo, Widdop, Miller, Watts, McShane, Massey, Edwards, Mellor, Westerman. Substitutes: Lawler, Griffin, Broadbent, Matagi.

Referee: Marcus Griffiths.

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