Hull FC moved a step closer to Wembley with an emphatic win against last season’s beaten finalists Castleford in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup 6th Round.
Now just two games away from a return to the national stadium a buzz seems to be developing among the fans as Hull made it 6 wins from their last 7 games with another exhibition of attacking rugby league which has been threatened many times, but not quite delivered in previous months.
Once again the talk in the build up was of the opposition having injuries but, again, the Airlie Birds were also below strength as the game was considered a week too early for Joe Westerman to come back from a Hernia operation and top try scorer Tom Lineham was also sidelined so Curtis Naughton took his place on the wing.
One player Hull did have back, after a two match suspension, was prop Mickey Paea so Jordan Thompson dropped down to the bench after starting the game at Warrington Wolves last week and captain Gareth Ellis switched from prop to loose forward.
The home side were the first to strike in the fourth minute as Curtis Naughton scrambled well to collect a loose pass and battle his way over in the corner despite the attentions of two Tigers defenders, Marc Sneyd, playing against the side he went to Wembley with last year, missed the touchline conversion to leave Hull 4-0 to the good.
After a frantic start the game started to settle down as both sides traded possession and territory until Liam Watts made a break down the middle from a sublime pass by Mickey Paea, Hull surged forward and eventually an overlap on the right led to a second try for Naughton in the 14th minute, this time Marc Sneyd added the conversion to give the home side a 10 point lead.
Another attack 3 minutes later led to a third try for Hull as the returning Paea crashed through the Castleford defence from close range, Marc Sneyd again tacked on the extras to stretch the lead to 16-0.
After that try the game became more of a war of attrition with the visitors trying frantically to break the home defence down while the black and white’s kept going through their processes and squeezed their opponents down the middle.
A mistake by Steve Michaels stepping into touch as he caught a high kick gave Castleford a scrum near the home line and Oliver Holmes eventually forced his way over but was held up by Leon Pryce.
A shocking decision by referee James Child to give the tigers another scrum near the Hull line after a knock on by Jordan Tansey eventually saw Ashley Gibson get in at the corner in the 33rd minute, the missed kick by Luke Gale left the score at 16-4.
Another attack from the visitors then saw James Clare go close at the corner before being bundled into touch by a fast moving Hull defence a few minutes later.
Another Castleford attack led to to a goal line drop out from Hull but the half time hooter sounded before they could try another attack and the black and white’s went into the break with their 12 point lead intact.
The second half started with a mistake by Mickey Paea dropping the ball early giving the visitors a scrum in the Hull half and the resulting attack saw James Clare squeeze in at the corner 3 minutes into the half, this time Luke Gale added the conversion to bring the Tigers back within 6 points.
Hull attacks were becoming rare and on their next visit to the Castleford line Leon Pryce knocked on over the line.
Castleford then strolled down the other end and a high kick was lost by Hull and Mike McMeeken took advantage to stretch over after 47 minutes, Gale again missed the kick to leave a slender two point advantage for the home side.
The tigers were looking much more organised and fluid in attack than they had in the first half and some very contentious decisions were all going their way as well.
Referee James Child was certainly making himself extremely unpopular with the home fans with some genuinely bizarre decisions particularly when he penalised the home side for infringements that went unpunished for the tigers.
A long break for an injury to Jordan Thompson, which ended with the Hull man being stretchered off, seemed to take the sting out of the visitors and Hull started to assert themselves again.
A good forward charge by Richard Whiting then set up the position for Hull to attack and a fast cross-field move ended with Jordan Rankin joining the attacking line to race in at the corner in the 62nd minute, the missed touchline conversion from Sneyd left Hull with a 20-14 lead.
Just five minutes later Hull were awarded a rare penalty in front of the posts and Sneyd duly obliged to give them a two score advantage.
A few minutes after that Curtis Naughton took the ball from dummy half and completed his hat-trick with a memorable try to increase Hull’s advantage, another goal from the ever reliable Sneyd made it 28-14 with less than nine minutes remaining.
The game was over a few minutes later as Jordan Rankin grabbed a second try which was goaled by Sneyd to take the score to 34-14 with six minutes left.
In the dying embers of the game Hull were still attacking and club stalwart Kirk Yeaman crossed the whitewash, to which Sneyd added a simple conversion to bring up the 40 score with the final act after the hooter.
Goal Line Drop Outs 1-1
Man of the Match: Curtis Naughton