The seventh and eight placed sides met at the Mend-a-hose Jungle in the final game of round fourteen as the Castleford Tigers hosted Hull FC. Whoever won the game would finish the night in seventh place, snapping at the heels of the sides above them in the race for the top four while the losers would be virtually out of the race for the play-offs.
There was no Challenge Cup distraction for these two sides with their respective coaches naming the strongest sides that they could as they pushed for the victory. The Tigers were slight favourites with the bookies, FC being given a two point start on the coupon, but with both sides strangers to the win in recent rounds, it was anyone’s game.
FC took just three minutes to open the scoring with Carlos Tuimavave finding Cameron Scott in space wide right to go five metres down the wing and score in the corner. Marc Sneyd converted brilliantly from the touchline for a 6-0 lead, the Airlie Birds quick out of the blocks.
The Tigers struck straight back with Mike McMeeken benefitting from a Gareth O’Brien break, taking the pass ten from the line and scoring under the sticks. O’Brien added the conversion to level the scores.
The Tigers were in front after thirteen with Greg Eden pinning back his ears and scoring from thirty metres out after a swift right to left passing move. O’Brien was again accurate with the boot for 12-6.
The Tigers defence was stretched too thinly on twenty-nine minutes when Hull kept the ball alive, Jordan Johnstone finding an acre of space to wrongfoot the last tackler and score by the left upright. Sneyd added the extras to level the scores.
A Sneyd penalty goal on thirty-five put FC back into the lead, every point precious in an evenly matched first half.
Matt Cook was sin-binned on thirty-seven to add to Daryll Powell’s woes after a late tackle, the Airlie Birds taking their slender lead into the interval after an intense but scrappy first half.
Hull FC extended their lead four minutes into the second half with Chris Satae running between two Tigers defenders to score by the uprights. Sneyd added the conversion for an eight-point lead.
The Tigers were right back in the game on fifty-five, Grant Millington taking a Paul McShane pass to go in from ten metres out. O’Brien pushed his try wide of the posts, the home side still trailing by four.
Just after the hour mark Ben McNamara was on hand to take an inside pass to scamper over the line and score under the sticks on debut. Sneyd was again accurate with the boot for a ten-point lead.
There was a lifeline for the Tigers on seventy after McMeeken used his strength to get over the line for his second try of the night. O’Brien added the conversion to reduce the arrears to four points.
Six minutes from time Michael Shenton levelled the scores picking up a McShane low grubber and diving for the line to ground under the knees of a Hull FC defender. O’Brien added the conversion to edge the Tigers into a two point lead.
But on seventy-six minutes the lead switched again with Jake Connor collecting a Sneyd chip over the top after FC regained their own kick-off. Sneyd added the conversion with just over two minutes remaining, FC with a 32-28 lead.
This was an evenly fought match with plenty of bad blood and a sprinkling of controversy. There were plenty of tries in a game which saw the lead change hands several time and the now customary bad tempered display from coach Powell in the stands. FC keep their slender hopes of a top four place alive but realistically the chase is now over for the Tigers who have had a disappointing season by their standards.
Castleford Tigers: Clare, Eden (T), Shenton (T), Blair, Sanderson, McShane, O’Brien (4G), Griffin, Milner, Hepi, Moors, McMeeken (2T), Millington (T). Subs: Massey, O’Neill, Cook (SB on 37), Peachey.
Hull FC: Buchanan, Faraimo, Fonua, Tuimavave, Scott (T), Connor (T), Sneyd (6G), Taylor, Johnstone (T), Bowden, Lane, Savelio, Cator. Subs: Satae (T), Sao, Fash, McNamara (T).
Referee: Tom Grant.
Half Time: 12-14.
Full Time: 28-32.
Venue: Mend-a-Hose Jungle, Castleford.