Super League: Castleford Tigers 24-22 Hull FC
|Betfred Super League|
|Castleford Tigers (20) 24|
|Tries: Gale, McMeeken, Hardaker Goals: Gale 6|
|Hull FC (4) 22|
|Tries: Fonua 2, Talanoa 2 Goals: Sneyd 3|
Castleford Tigers pulled eight points clear at the top of Super League with a hard-fought victory over Hull FC.
Hull, who had twice beaten Cas in the league and Challenge Cup in 2017, took an early lead through Mahe Fonua.
Luke Gale, Mike McMeeken and Zak Hardaker all crossed before half-time to put the Tigers 20-4 ahead.
A second Fonua try and Fetuli Talanoa's double kept third-placed Hull in contention after the break, but Gale's accuracy from the tee ensured victory.
Despite the Tigers being outscored four tries to three, Gale's 100% record with the boot - kicking six from six - proved decisive.
Daryl Powell's side are now eight points clear of second-placed Leeds Rhinos, who beat St Helens on Thursday, and are guaranteed to top the table going into the Super 8s.
Hull, play-off semi-finalists and Challenge Cup winners in 2016, more than matched their hosts for large periods of the first half, even striking first through Fonua's smart finish.
But Hardaker's well-taken score moments before the break gave Castleford a 16-point advantage - a lead they only ever looked in danger of relinquishing in the final couple of minutes.
Second-half tries from Fonua and Talanoa set up a grandstand finish at the Jungle, but Talanoa's forward pass from the final play of the game put paid to hopes of a fine comeback, leaving them nine points behind Cas in the table.
Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell:
"It almost feels like we've lost, the way we were clinging on.
"I thought in the first half we were excellent. We played a patient game, only made one error and built a score. At the start of second half we looked in full control.
"It's funny how games flip. We lost control and the flow of the game changed. It was pretty painful to watch. It's one of the most uncomfortable scorelines to have."
Hull FC coach Lee Radford:
"We lost because we didn't click into gear until it was too late. Defensively I thought we were really sharp but the errors after half-time really hurt us.
"That's the frustrating thing, the fact we didn't play so smart with the ball. We got that in the last 15 minutes but it took us 65 minutes.
"I know how much more offensively we've got in the tank. We need a huge improvement with the ball next week."
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker, Hitchcox, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Roberts, Gale, Sene-Lefao, McShane, Millington, Foster, McMeeken, Milner.
Replacements: Massey, Springer, Patrick, T Holmes.
Hull FC: Shaul, Fonua, Connor, Griffin, Talanoa, Kelly, Sneyd, Bowden, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Washbrook, Manu.
Replacements: Fash, Thompson, Taylor, Turgut.
Referee: Chris Kendall (RFL)