Hull FC’s Challenge Cup romance continued as they produced a magnificent performance to defeat Castleford 32-24 to progress to the semi-finals of the prestigious competition.
Defying the bookies with the underdog tag, the Black and Whites ignored the script, and the hype for their opposition, as they got on top of high-flying Castleford in every department to record a sensational victory.
Hull were outstanding, and they’re hitting some form at just the right time. The dark horse, they’ll be competing for a place at Wembley come the back end of July and who would bet against them retaining their trophy.
Sensational, FC were heroic against Cas, and defied logic. Going by media comments this season Cas had already won everything, it was nailed on, Hull didn’t have a chance. There’s lessons to be learned here. It’s a marathon not a sprint, and Lee Radford’s side are picking up pace towards the latter stages of that marathon. They’re right in the mix.
“We had three gingers out there so it’s a miracle we won. Credit Cas, half the village is here,” Radford joked post-match. Tongue in cheek, but it shows the magnitude of the achievement. It was Summer conditions alright. Costa del Hull. Pitch-side temperatures exceeded 30 degrees Celsius, so fair play to both sides, especially those strawberry blonde lads, for pulling through.
Just like the league fixture back in April Hull started like a house on fire. They took the game to Cas, who couldn’t cope. They got in their faces, they pressurised them and got their reward, with Carlos Tuimavave, who was brilliant throughout, taking an interception to race 80 metres to the line. Fetuli Talanoa then added a second to complete a domineering opening spell. Hull were 12-0 up and it quite easily could have been more.
Hull though, well baring one bad restart, were terrific – led by the outstanding Jake Connor, who again stepped up massively in Marc Sneyd’s absence to guide his side. Showing maturity beyond his youthful years, Connor kicked majestically and his passing was crisp and on point. He’s getting better and better, and has an insane future ahead of him.
Elsewhere Liam Watts really put the minutes in, he was freakish, and there was a welcome return for fellow big hitter Scott Taylor. The backs were invaluable to FC’s cause, with Mahe Fonua, along with Steve Michaels and Talanoa, coming up with pressure reliving carries time and time again. The effort, no more from the likes of the juggernaut Sika Manu, was immense.
A minor blip occurred as Cas hit back. An error restarted the tackle count on Hull’s line, with Ben Roberts, who was arguably the away sides best player, showing excellent footwork to guide himself over. Luke Gale then put a kick on a plate for Zak Hardaker, and the scores were level at 12-12. Hull managed to regain the lead though, as Connor slotted over a penalty goal to reopen a two point gap at half time.
Hull kept the scoreboard ticking after the break adding another penalty goal, before Cas hit the front for the first time in the match. Roberts danced his way over for another fine try, but Connor equalled it out with two further penalty goals as Hull regained the lead.
The Black and Whites then stepped it up again, playing some superb stuff. Their opposition have took their plaudits for playing such a type of rugby, with Hull’s final two tries of the game exhibiting nothing but sheer class. First Fonua powered over after a mazy Mark Minichello run, before a fine sequence of handling involving several players saw Jamie Shaul finish off a quite sensational looking try.
Take a bow, Hull were tasting victory at this point, and knew they had the measure of Castleford. It was a superb display, and not even a late Greg Minikin effort could take the gloss off another remarkable Challenge Cup performance. Bring on the semis.
Hull Starting XIII: 1. Jamie Shaul, 19. Steve Michaels, 2. Mahe Fonua, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 6. Albert Kelly, 14. Jake Connor, 22. Josh Bowden, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Liam Watts, 17. Danny Washbrook, 12. Mark Minichiello, 21. Sika Manu. Interchange: 8. Scott Taylor, 16. Jordan Thompson, 25. Jansin Turgut, 28. Brad Fash.
Hull Tries: Tuimavave, Talanoa, Fonua, Shaul. Goals: Connor 8/9.
Hull 3-2-1 Man of the Match: 3pts Jake Connor, 2pts Carlos Tuimavave, 1pt Mahe Fonua.
Castleford Starting XIII: 1. Zak Hardaker, 2. Greg Minikin, 3. Jake Webster, 4. Michael Shenton, 5. Greg Eden, 16. Ben Roberts, 7. Luke Gale, 8. Andy Lynch, 9. Paul McShane, 14. Nathan Massey, 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 12. Mike McMeeken, 13. Adam Milner. Interchange: 10. Grant Millington, 20. Karen Patrick, 33. Kevin Larroyer, 34. Alex Foster.
Castleford Tries: Roberts 2, Hardaker, Minikin. Goals: Gale 4/4.
Scoring System: 6-0, 12-0, 12-6, 12-12, 14-12, 16-12, 16-18, 18-18, 20-18, 26-18, 32-18, 32-24.
Referee: Phil Bentham