Fans from both clubs rose as one to give the former prop – still recovering from life-changing injuries that ended his career last year – a standing ovation as he bade his last farewell to the Robins faithful ahead of returning home to Australia in November.
KR supporters were on their feet again by the end at Hull College Craven Park following a thrilling game which crucially thrust their club back into the top-six ahead of Friday’s final regular round at play-off rivals Leeds Rhinos.
Castleford knew a win would see themselves confirmed in the play-offs but they now must prosper at home to Warrington Wolves on Thursday or their season is ended.
Rovers were grateful to so many individuals, not least Will Dagger, the Castleford-born full-back playing only his second game of the season.
When Niall Evalds, the electric Tigers No 1, finds open space he normally scores but Dagger did brilliantly to chase down the full-back and deny him a hat-trick try in the 54th minute when the visitors led 19-12.
If Tigers had scored at that point, you sensed there would be no way back for Tony Smith’s side but Dagger’s intervention proved critical.
Soon after, Rovers scored controversially via Matt Parcell – Shaun Kenny-Dowall appeared to knock Jordan Abdull’s hoisted kick forward but James Child chose not to check with the video referee – and, in the next set, Abdull’s brilliant 40/20 kick set up position for the excellent Kane Linnett to charge over.
Thereafter, desperate Castleford did their utmost to rescue the contest but their execution was not up to scratch and the resilient hosts defended manfully until Abdull’s penalty with the final kick of the match finally ensured the result.
It was a welcome return for the influential stand-off, who had been in the running for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel before fracturing his thumb and missing six weeks of action.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Abdull said: “Coming out for the warm-up, that feeling, that buzz was great.
“What a game and what a great atmosphere as well.
“All the fans came out in numbers and got us through in the end I reckon. We needed them.
“We were just defending our line; for the last 10 minutes they were getting back-to-back sets.
“It was tough. We needed that extra player out there and luckily we had 6,000 of them. It’s always good to have that many people cheering you.
“I think they got that win tonight as much as us.”
Although he slotted all five of his attempts at goal and came up with those vital plays to hurt Castleford when it mattered most, the 25 year-old insisted: “I wasn’t too pleased.
“I’ve had a chat with Tony (Smith) and said I’ll probably be better for having a little bit of a scratchy performance.
“I was happy with a couple of the key moments that I did but overall I’d like to be a bit more consistent and try and get back to the form I was in before the injury and lockdown.
“It will take time but we’ve put ourselves in a really good position now so hopefully I’m going to have more than just one more week to get back to that,” he added.
A three-match losing run had threatened to undo all of KR’s good work this season but, after backing up a win against Leigh Centurions at Magic Weekend, they are now firmly in control.
“I’ve given up looking at the win percentages!” joked Abdull
“Even after we lost to Huddersfield and Wakefield, we said it’s still in our destiny.
“We won at Magic and had a little look at the table as it is confusing.
“But we were in control; we play two teams battling for the same spot as us so if we beat them we’re in the play-offs.
“We won’t be sitting, hoping Cas’ lose; we’ll turn up at Leeds, hopefully have a good win and do it the hard way regardless.”
If Castleford do lose against Warrington, ironically the club their coach Daryl Powell is joining at the end of the season, both Rovers and Leeds will qualify.
However, if Tigers prosper, KR – who saw Mikey Lewis score a brace – and Rhinos face a winner-takes-all shoot-out at Headingley.
Rovers 15-try winger Ryan Hall will miss a return to his former club, though, after departing at half-time with a shoulder injury that will rule him out for the rest of the season and centre Greg Minikin also limped off.
“It was tough to take,” said Powell, whose side also scored via Derrell Olpherts’s try and seven points from the boot of Danny Richardson.
“I just thought our game management was poor. We didn’t have the strike or the energy to find a way back into the game.
“But we live to fight another day. We just have to find a way on Thursday.”
Hull KR: Dagger; Crooks, Minikin, Kenny-Dowall, Hall; Lewis, Abdull; King, Parcell, Maher, Linnett, Takairangi, Storton. Substitutes: Vete, Litten, Johnson, Keinhorst.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds; Olpherts, Turner, Shenton, Clare; Mata’utia, Richardson; Griffin, Milner, Smith, Holmes, Sene-Lefao, Massey. Substitutes: Foster, O’Neill. Hepi, Matagi.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).