Hull FC v Castleford Tigers: This is ‘just as big as derby’ insists Brett Hodgson

THERE will be no chance for Hull FC to suffer a post-derby dip tonight as head coach Brett Hodgson says their crucial game against Castleford Tigers is akin to the play-offs starting early.

The Black and Whites have rightly been basking in the glow of Saturday’s epic 23-22 win over Hull KR which edged them into sixth spot ahead of this round.

However, they now know it must be straight back to business given the enormity of this evening’s game against in-form opponents who are immediately intent on ousting them from the play-off places for their own gain.

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Castleford have won three successive games to get back up to a 50 per cent win ratio – and firmly in contention for the top-six once more with just five matches of the regular season remaining.

“There’s been a real bounce around the place this week after Saturday’s win and finally getting a positive result,” said Hodgson, Hull having lost their previous four contests.

“But we’re coming up against another good side who have won three on the bounce.

“We have prepared well because they’re nipping at our heels for a play-off spot; it’s like a semi-final come early.

“This game is just as big as the derby; we need to take the confidence from last week and put it into another big performance.”

Hull FC's Josh Reynolds has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign. Picture: PA.

However, Hull’s impressive derby win has come at a price with Hodgson confirming yesterday that loose forward Joe Cator ruptured an Achilles tendon and stand-off Josh Reynolds has torn his medial ligaments.

Both players will undergo surgery next week and miss the rest of the season with Cator set to sit out a big chunk of 2022 as well.

Hodgson added: “It’s disappointing for Joe as he’d been performing exceptionally well.

“We’re disappointed for him and for us as a team it’s going to be a big gap to fill.”

Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson. Picture: PA

Former New South Wales State of Origin star Reynolds, meanwhile, has had a stop-start opening to his debut season after joining from the NRL with Covid issues and injuries.

Hodgson said: “Again, unfortunately for Josh and us, it looks like he’ll need an operation.

“His medial ligament was fully detached in the tackle. It was quite a nasty tackle, to be honest. I don’t think there was any intent from their player to hurt him but the way he fell on his knee it’s not surprising that it is pretty bad.

“He’ll go in for an operation probably next week at some stage and start his recuperation from there.

“They are two of our regular features but I’m confident with the players that come in.

“Whoever comes in they have a job to do and they have to be supported by a number of players inside and outside of them.

“I’m still confident with the squad that we have got that we can make a charge.”

Deciding on how he fills the void left by Reynolds, in particular, is a big decision for the Hull coach.

Jake Connor moving from full-back is the obvious switch especially as Jamie Shaul made his own successful return from long-term injury against Rovers.

However, given Connor’s supreme form at No 1, it would be no surprise if Hodgson opted to bring teenager Ben McNamara back in at stand-off and keep the status quo at the back.

Up front, Chris Satae makes a welcome return to offset the loss of Cator, the 23-year-old local lad who has excelled this term.

Hull have won six of their last seven meetings with Castleford but Hodgson is under no illusions about the threat the beaten Challenge Cup finalists pose.

“They’re getting back to near enough their strongest team,” he said.

“They played well in the first-half against Wakefield last week before taking their foot off the gas a little bit, and against St Helens they were brilliant, as well as beating Leeds before that.

“Our ruck control needs to be good to control guys like (Niall) Evalds, (Paul) McShane, (Danny) Richardson and (Gareth) O’Brien,” he said.

“If we can do that, it’ll go a long way to helping us get a result.”

With a glut of so many Covid postponements and cancellations earlier in the season, there was a genuine fear this 2021 Super League campaign could lose all credibility.

Thankfully, outbreaks at clubs have eased somewhat and the jostling for top-six play-off spots – any three from Wigan Warriors, KR, Hull, Leeds Rhinos and Castleford could essentially make the cut – is potentially fascinating.

Hodgson added: “There’s been obvious disruptions for many teams during the year. Now we get to the business end it’s about performing at our best and getting some momentum.

“We have a couple of crucial games coming up – Cas’ on Thursday, Leeds a fortnight after that and Wigan – so we have a challenging run into the semis.

“If we’re good enough to play well against those teams we’ll get the results and rewards from them when those semis do come.”