As Super League 2021 edges ever closer to the play-offs, both Hull FC and the Castleford Tigers knew that a loss in tonight’s fixture could prove disastrous to their play-off hopes as they jockeyed for position inside the all-important top six.
A win for the home side could see them up to fifth and complicate the Tigers path to a top six finish, while a win for the visitors would lift them into a minimum of seventh, and depending on the result of the game between Hull KR and Wakefield Trinity, might even see them entering the six.
The Airlie Birds were the bookies favourites for the win but with seventh against eighth it was almost too close to call, the visitors getting just a two-point start on the handicap coupon.
It was a stunning start for the Tigers with Paul McShane feeding Jordan Turner on the line to crash over the top of the FC defence and force the ball onto the ground. Danny Richardson added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
McShane picked up a rib injury on eight minutes which forced him off the field seconds later, after he failed to run it off.
Hull answered on ten minutes with Adam Swift on hand to take a Jake Connor miss-out pass and score one handed in the corner. Mark Sneyd added the conversion to level the scores.
Liam Watts was sin-binned for a trip on twenty-five and four minutes later the twelve men eased ahead when Richardson kicked a drop goal from twenty-five metres out.
A delightful step from Turner gave the Tigers their second try on thirty-six with a forty-metre effort off a Greg Eden pass. Richardson added the conversion to put the visitors seven points ahead as the sides headed into the sheds.
Despite plenty of pressure it took the Tigers sixteen minutes of the second half to get the score board moving again, and then through the boot of Richardson as he kicked a penalty when Hull were ruled offside.
But two minutes later the Tigers had the game in the back with Richardson adding to his goals as he crossed down the right wing after chiming into the line and diving over in the corner without an FC hand on him. He was unable to convert his own try but it left the Airlie Birds needing three tries to get back into the game.
On sixty-two Jake Connor spotted a gap and took a great offload to go three metres to ground. Sneyd was able to add the conversion and the lead was reigned back to seven points.
Any doubt of an FC fightback was extinguished on seventy-four when Niall Evalds evaded the Hull defence after twice dipping his shoulder and bemusing the defence. Richardson couldn’t hit the target with the conversion, the Tigers 23-12 ahead with four minutes remaining.
George Griffin and Scott Taylor were sin-binned on seventy-eight for a coming together but it made no difference to the match outcome.
It was a game which the Tigers never looked like letting slip, against a Hull FC side who looked as though they were still sleepily basking in the glory of last weekends derby win. With Hull KR being defeated at home against Wakefield Trinity, the two Hull sides have both now dropped outside the six with the Tigers tucking themselves in behind the Leeds Rhinos in the last play-off place. The Tigers managed to overcome the early loss of their talisman McShane, and of spending a period in the first half down to twelve men. Hull FC are not out of it, but there is a lot of fighting left for them to do.
Hull FC: Connor (T), Swift (T), Scott, Tuimavave, Faraimo, McNamara, Sneyd (2G), Sao, Houghton, Taylor (SB on 78), Ma’u, Savelio, Lane. Subs: Fash, Fonua, Johnstone, Satae.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds (T), Eden, Turner (2T), Mata’utia, Olpherts, O’Brien, Richardson (T, 3G, DG), Griffin (SB on 78), McShane, Smith, Foster, Blair, Massey. Subs: Watts (SB on 25), Holmes, Milner, Matagi.
Referee: Ben Thaler.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-6, (SB), 6-7, 6-11, 6-13 : HT : 6-15, 6-19, 10-19, 12-19, 12-23, (SB), (SB) : FT.