After last weeks loss to their closest rivals Hull KR, Hull FC welcomed the Castleford Tigers to the KCOM Stadium on Thursday night as they looked to end a 12-game losing streak.
The Tigers were dominant in their round one victory over Catalans Dragons last weekend but are missing both Mike McMeeken and Matt Cook from last week’s side.
Alex Foster moves up into the starting line-up, with Mitch Clark and Ben Roberts were the men drafted onto the bench.
Hull FC welcomed back Jake Connor and Joe Westerman who were both unavailable in round one, with Hakim Miloudi coming in for Matty Dawson-Jones on the right wing also.
The first try of the night came from Castleford, on just five minutes as Jake Trueman ran to the shortside, cut inside Hakim Miloudi and popped the ball to Michael Shenton, who opened his account for the 2019 season. Paul McShane added the extras for an early 6-0 lead.
Hull FC nearly hit back just minutes later though, as a repeat set of six gave them the first tackle just 30 minutes out. However both Jake Connor and Sika Manu were held up over the line by the Tigers after a good defensive set.
Castleford crossed the line in their next attacking set after Jesse Sene-Lefao picked up Paul McShane’s left footed kick through and twisted off Scott Taylor to ground the ball. McShane was unsuccessful with the conversion as it kept it at 10-0.
Hull FC thought they’d pulled a try back as Tigers winger James Clare threw the ball back inside into Mark Minichiello’s hands, as the second-rower powered over the line. The TMO deemed that James Clare was in touch before he released the ball which resulted in a Hull scrum 10 metres out.
The attacking set that followed did bring points though. A switch move between Joe Westerman and Jake Connor created a huge gap for Westerman and the loose-forward powered over the line. Marc Sneyd kicked the goal and narrowed the gap to four points.
The next 10 minutes were very back and forth with both sets of players making some handling errors in the face of stern defence.
Hull FC then levelled the score after a Jamie Shaul break led to good field position for Sneyd to float a cross-field kick over to Connor who leapt higher than Shenton and cross the line with nobody around him. Sneyd added the extras and the home-side led by two.
Jamie Shaul started running the show for the Airlie Birds as he made another break from inside his own half. He thought he’d got past his last man but Peter Mata’utia managed to ankle tap his opposite number and as Shaul fell, he knocked the ball on.
The open attacking play from Castleford didn’t stop either as McShane released Junior Moors and the Tigers had a three-on-two overlap. Greg Minikin backed himself but was taken into touch by Bureta Faraimo and co.
The first two penalties against Castleford came in the 36th minute as the Tigers were caught offside and the Sene-Lefao interfered at the play the ball. This set up Hull in good territory but Marc Sneyd’s early kick was just a bit too long for Faraimo on the right hand side and Cas escaped.
With time running out in the first-half, the Tigers did not want to go into the sheds on the losing side. Quick play-the-balls and hard lines meant that they could catch Hull off-guard and on the third tackle the ball was shifted to the left hand edge and with Greg Eden on his outside, Shenton dummied and went over the line himself to score his 100th Super League try on Cas colours. McShane once again missed the conversion just as the half-time hooter blew.
Half-Time: Hull FC 12-14 Castleford Tigers
The opening five minutes of the second-half were very back and forth with both sides getting close to the line and Cas forcing back-to-back repeat sets.
The Hull FC defence held on for a while but with a three-on-two on the right hand edge, James Clare was the recipient of a Mata’utia pass and dived over in the corner. McShane missed another conversion as the Tigers led by six.
Once again the Airlie Birds, thought they had pegged Castleford back just after the 50 minute mark. However, the Tigers were awarded a penalty as Joe Westerman obstructed Liam Watts as Jake Connor jinxed his way over the line.
The Tigers made the home side pay just a minute later. Paul McShane pushed another little kick through the Hull line from dummy-half and this time it was Juniors Moors who landed on the ball to get the score. McShane finally added another conversion as the Tigers now led by 12.
One negative for Castleford though was the loss of Mitch Clark who came on in the 54th minute and after his first carry picked up a serious knee injury and would not return to the park.
That lead was then cut straight back to six as Connor released Shaul who, once again, broke through the Tigers defence outside Adam Milner and with just Mata’utia to beat, passed inside Jordan Lane who scored his first try of the season. Marc Sneyd kept his 100% record from the boot.
Another ball steal penalty from Hull FC near their own line, gave the Tigers a chance to extend their lead. However, it wasn’t McShane who attempted the conversion after he twisted his knee in the previous tackle. Jordan Rankin had the honours and duly delivered to make it 18-26.
Hull FC were not going to lie down without a fight at the KCOM and once again Jake Connor stepped through the Tigers line and managed to get himself over the line. However, the half-back was held up for the second time on the night.
With just over ten minutes of the game remaining, the physicality of the game was making players a little agitated. Hakim Miloudi was the next player over the line for Hull FC but the winger was deemed to have knocked on over the line in what seemed to be a ball steal.
With just minutes remaining, Hull were throwing the ball around and trying everything to win the game but they just could not do enough.
A high kick with just a few seconds left in the game was collected by Greg Eden who raced away and passed inside to Jordan Rankin but the half-back was dragged down by Shaul. His offload was deemed to go forward to Alex Foster and Chris Kendal blew the final whistle. Hull FC have now lost 13 games in a row and put serious pressure on Lee Radford.
Full-Time: Hull FC 18-26 Castleford Tigers
Man Of The Match: Jamie Shaul
A consolation prize for the Hull FC full-back who was the most dynamic player on the pitch for either side. His creative instinct drove the Airlie Birds forward but the Castleford defence was just too strong.
Jamie Shaul, Hakim Miloudi, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Bureta Faraimo, Jake Connor, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Masi Matongo, Sika Manu, Mark Minichiello, Joe Westerman.
Subs: Jordan Lane, Jez Litten, Micky Paea, Jordan Thompson.
Joe Westerman, Jake Connor, Jordan Lane
Marc Sneyd (3/3)
Peter Mata’utia, James Clare, Greg Minikin, Michael Shenton, Greg Eden, Jake Trueman, Jordan Rankin, Liam Watts, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Alex Foster Nathan Massey.
Subs: Adam Milner, Junior Moors, Ben Roberts, Mitch Clark.
Michael Shenton (2), Jesse Sene-Lefao
Paul McShane (1/3), Jordan Rankin (1/1)