All that stood between Hull FC and a guaranteed play off place was a win at the Castleford Tigers as they travelled to West Yorkshire in the opening round twenty-six game. FC came into the game two points ahead of the Tigers and daren't contemplate a loss which would see Castleford go above them on points difference with just one round remaining.
The home side had Matt Cook back in the side for the first time since July, while the visitors welcomed back Albert Kelly and Ratu Naulago.
On paper it really was too close to call, and would depend on which Hull FC side had made the journey, the one that beat Castleford the last time they met, or the one which crashed to struggling Huddersfield Giants last time out.
Castleford drew first blood when Cheyse Blair stretched for the line, scoring over his head as he crossed the whitewash on his back. There had been some scintilating play in the build up and the Tigers caught Hull short down the left. Jamie Ellis added the extras from wide.
Two minutes later the Tigers were in for their second as Jake Trueman weaved his way through the Hull defence to improve the angle for Ellis to add the extras. The home side were 12-0 up in as many minutes.
On seventeen Trueman got his second, this time out of nothing, as he snook through a gaop in a confused Hull defence to go twenty metres to score under the sticks. It made the Ellis conversion a formality.
A twenty-five metre penalty from Ellis extended the lead to 20-0 on twenty-four.
On the half hour Masi Matongo dragged Mike McMeeken to the line and stretched to score on the line. The decision took a while to be confirmed by the video referee but Marc Sneyd was quicker adding the extras.
Just eighty seconds after the restart Jake Trueman got his hat-trick try after Hull spilled the ball twenty from their own line and the Tigers shifted the ball to the left for the stand off to run the angle to score. Ellis added the conversion, his fifth goal of the night.
Jamie Shaul was sin-binned on fifty-four for a professional foul after chasing back and tackling Jordan Rankin. One minute later Jack Logan took a pass five metres from his own line and went near the length of the field to outpace the Tigers defence to score. Sneyd added the conversion for 12-26.
James Clare sealed the Tigers win with ten minutes to go, going down the right wing and leaping over in the corner for the four pointer. Ellis added the goal and the Tigers were 32-12 ahead.
Jordan Rankin scored the Tigers sixth try of the night when he grounded a Jake Trueman kick through in the goal area and under the sticks to give Ellis his seventh kick of the game.
Jake Connor was sin-binned for dissent on seventy-seven, an ignimonous end to a miserable eveing for FC.
Matt Cook put the icing on the cake on seventy eight, on his return to the side, with a try by the left upright after a Liam Watts pass. Ellis maintained his one hundred percent kicking record for a 44-12 win.
It was a simple win for the Tigers, by a far larger margin than many would have tipped, but a poor Hull must shoulder the blame for the final score.
This was a big win for the Tigers and a disaster for Hull FC as the Castleford side jump into fifth spot and with a far superior points difference. Castleford play Wigan next week while Hull FC travel to St Helens, the Tigers future in their own hands as they know that a win will get them that fifth play-off spot.
Tigers: Rankin (T), Clare (T), Mata’utia, Blair (T), Minikin, Trueman (3T), Ellis (8G), Watts, McShane, Millington, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Massey. Subs: Holmes, Milner, Cook (T), Smith.
FC: Shaul (SB on 54), Naulago, Connor (SB on 77), Tuimavave, Logan (T), Kelly, Sneyd (2G), Taylor, Houghton, Paea, Manu, Griffin, Ellis. Subs: Bowden, Minichiello, Matongo (T), Satae.
Referee: Ben Thaler.