The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Quarter-Final saw Cup holders Hull FC take on Castleford Tigers on a sweltering afternoon at the KCOM Stadium.
Both sides went into the game in good form in what promised to be an intriguing match-up. The Airlie Birds opened the scoring in spectacular fashion as Carlos Tuimavave intercepted a Castleford attack on his own line to go the length of the field (4), Jake Connor expertly converting from out wide on the left: 6 – 0. Hull’s dominance continued as the Airlie Birds worked the ball out wide to Fetuli Talanoa and a try was given via the Video Referee (7), Connor adding the extras superbly again: 12 – 0. FC who were ferocious in attack and defence, were almost in again but for Albert Kelly losing the ball near the line, as the Tigers fronted up.
Castleford rallied on the 20-minute mark and went close in the corner through Greg Eden but for a fantastic cover tackle by Steve Michaels forcing a knock-on. However, this delayed the inevitable as Ben Roberts preyed on hesitancy in the Hull defence to weave his way over near the line (27), Luke Gale converting to narrow Hull’s lead to 12 – 6. The momentum quickly swung in Castleford’s favour and they were in again after a neat reverse grubber-kick from Gale was followed-up and collected by Zak Hardaker to score (30), Gale adding the two points to level the contest at 12 – 12. Interference from Castleford gave Hull some respite as Connor opted to take the two points and successfully converted (34) to edge the Airlie Birds back ahead: 14 – 12 going into half-time.
The second-half started with an early penalty in Hull’s favour after more ill discipline from Castleford in the tackle, Connor tactically choosing to kick (41) as he extended FC’s narrow lead to 16 – 12. Ben Roberts was the inspiration for another Tigers’ try as neat footwork allowed him to cross the line from an initial Michael Shenton pass (47), Gale adding the extras as Castleford took the lead in the game for the first time at 16 – 18. After a great break from Carlos Tuimavave, holding down in the tackle lead to another conceded Tigers penalty and Connor kicked two points again (51), leaving the scoreline at 18 – 18 in an enthralling game.
Another penalty would quickly follow in a familiar theme for Castleford but Connor missed his first kick of the day to leave the scores level. A late flop by Adam Milner lead to another penalty in Hull’s favour under the sticks, this time Connor was successful with the boot (59) to edge the Black & Whites back ahead: 20 – 18 going into the final 20 minutes. Hull extended their lead with an exquisite try, an evasive run from Mark Minichiello drawing the line-defence in before passing to Mahe Fonua, who utilised a clever dummy to barge his way over in the left corner (66), Connor accurate with the kick again to establish a 26 – 18 lead for the home side.
The champagne rugby continued to flow and Hull demonstrated great ability to keep the ball alive as they broke upfield, possession eventually falling to Jamie Shaul who scored (67), converted by Connor again as FC began to dominate proceedings at 32 – 18. Connor attempted a drop-goal a minute later but was unsuccessful from distance. The away side responded after Greg Minikin found space out wide on the right to scoot in (71), Gale successful from out wide with the kick leaving the scoreline at 32 – 24, setting up a dramatic finale. Castleford frantically searched for a try but to no avail as Cup holder’s Hull FC progressed to the Semi-finals of the Challenge Cup with a hard-earned victory .