A very young Hull FC took a big step towards qualifying for the much coveted Super League top 8 with a stirring comeback win against Castleford Tigers at the KC Stadium.
Teenager Brad Fash was drafted into Hull FC coach Lee Radford’s match day squad in place of captain Gareth Ellis for this Super League clash with the in-form Tigers who arrived on the back of a five match winning run.
Chris Green also returned in place of the suspended Mickey Paea and Richard Whiting came into the starting line-up having come off the bench in the victory over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats the previous week.
The first opportunity was presented to the visitors as a deep kick from Marc Sneyd went into touch on the full giving the Tigers a scrum 30 meters from the home sides line but an organised defence from the black and white’s easily repelled the resulting attack.
A soft penalty then presented the Tigers another opportunity and eventually a fast move from left to right saw Denny Solomona finish spectacularly in the corner in the 6th minute, Liam Finn was unable to add the touchline conversion to leave the score at 0-4.
Another Castleford attack started as Solomona made a break in midfield but he was dragged down just short of the line by a desperate Hull defence and the overlap on the left wing was wasted with a nothing kick that Justin Carney was unable to gather in front of the line.
The Airlie Birds then marched menacingly to the other end with a significant break from Steve Michaels and eventually Leon Pryce sent Richard Whiting over with a deft little pass in the 11th minute, Sneyd then gave Hull the advantage with a successful conversion to make it 6-4.
Suddenly Hull were taking the game to their opponents and throwing the ball around with confidence and thought they were in for another try but the final pass to Joe Westerman was deemed forward by referee Joe Cobb less than 20 meters from the Tigers line.
Castleford were gifted another opportunity when Jordan Rankin spilled a high bomb giving them a 10 meter scrum and they took full advantage as Luke Dorn pounced to score from close range to give the visitor’s the lead in the 18th minute, this Finn obliged with the extra points to give them a four point lead again.
Another opportunity was squandered by the Tigers after a penalty for a ball-steal gave them territory but as they attacked down the left a forward pass put paid to the chance.
Both teams seemed intent on knocking lumps out of each other and a series of bone crunching tackles were clearly having an effect but still no quarter was being asked or given at either end.
Castleford pressed the Hull line again and once again Solomona got in at the corner as Hull’s defence just simply ran out of men after a fast move from the middle to the right, once again Finn was unable to add the extras but the Tigers were looking good value with an eight point lead.
Hull then attacked just before half time and Tom Lineham seemed to have a perfectly legitimate try but referee Cobb controversially disallowed it after consulting with his touch judge to leave the Airlie Birds with a two score deficit going into the half time break.
Hull started much the livelier in the 2nd half and were unlucky in the 42nd minute when a pass intended for Lineham just evaded the winger and went into touch.
However the home side soon put that disappointment behind them three min utes later as Jordan Abdull crashed over despite the attentions of three Tigers defenders to get Hull back in the game, the conversion from Sneyd brought Hull back within two points.
Hull were looking more aggressive and willing to chance their arm and another attack soon after saw Danny Houghton held up over the line by desperate Tigers defence.
Lineham got the try he deserved in the 59th minute as a cross-field move as fast as a Ferrari formula 1 car allowed the flying winger to provide a spectacular finish in the corner to give Hull a two point advantage, Sneyd was unable to add the extras from the touchline to leave the score at 16-14.
A mistake in defence by the Tigers when trying to stop a Pryce offload in front of the line gave the Airlie Birds a 10 meter scrum but a knock on wasted the chance after a push at the scrum.
The table then turned as Finn put a high bomb up and Michaels knocked the ball into touch 10 meters from his own line under intense pressure from Solomona.
However the Tigers were unable to take advantage as Hull’s superb scrambling defence held them at bay until a kick over the top was caught on the full by Lineham behind the Hull line.
Hull then split the Tigers defence again in broken field as Rankin scampered through after shrugging off two defenders and, as he slipped in front of the line, had the presence of mind to look outside and see Lineham waiting to scoop up his pass and crash over in the 69th minute, Sneyd was off-target again with the conversion to leave Hull with a six point lead.
Sneyd then came back to haunt his old team with a drop goal in the 71st minute to leave the Tigers needing two scores.
Castleford suddenly found their vigour again and started pushing the home defence with a desperate looking attack but their captain Michael Shenton wasted another chance with a knock on 10 meters from the line under intense pressure.
Hull’s halves Sneyd and Pryce and captain for the day Houghton were causing the Tigers all sorts of problems especially in broken field and the kicking game of Sneyd and Houghton was constantly turning them round and sending them scuttling back.
However a controversial penalty for Castleford after Solomona had been bundled into touch by the Hull defence led to a chance attack and half back Ben Roberts reached out to score in the 76th minute, the kick was missed by Finn to leave Hull leading by three points.
Try as they might the Tigers couldn’t break down a resilient Hull defence again and after a frantic closing few minutes a soft penalty for Hull finished the game for a much deserved win for the black and white’s and send them into next weekends crunch derby match against Hull KR at the KC Lightstream Stadium with back-to-back wins.
Radford confirmed afterwards that Hull have an appeal hearing on Tuesday about Mickey Paea’s ban which effectively rules him out of the game against his former employers as things stand.
He also said that influential back row Mark Minichiello and captain Gareth Ellis look likely to play against their cross city rivals as they both look to overcome niggling injuries.
Penalties: Hull 5 Tigers 6
Man of the Match: Richard Whiting