Castleford go eight points clear at top after surviving late Hull fightback

Luke Gale (second right) is congratulated by Castleford teammates Paul McShane, Michael Shennton and Greg Eden after scoring his side's first try in tonight's game against Hull FC. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Luke Gale (second right) is congratulated by Castleford teammates Paul McShane, Michael Shennton and Greg Eden after scoring his side's first try in tonight's game against Hull FC. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

CASTLEFORD Tigers moved eight points clear at the top of Super League by avenging two defeats against Hull FC this season by beating them 24-22 at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle tonight.

England half-back Luke Gale grabbed a try and landed six goals from six kicks in Castleford’s ninth straight league victory as they survived a late Hull fightback that saw the visitors score three tries in 11 minutes.

Gale’s goals proved crucial after Castleford were outscored four tries to three.

It maintained their 100 per cent home record this year and confirmed they will be leaders going into the Super 8s with three matches of the regular season still to play.

The Tigers recovered from a shaky start to lead 20-4 at half-time.

They fell behind in the fifth minute when Jake Connor’s superb pass put in Mahe Fonoa at the corner.

Cas hit back six minutes later when Marc Sneyd’s sloppy pass handed a gift try to Luke Gale who toed the ball forward and regathered it to dart over from 20 yards out.

Gale converted his own try and then kicked a 15th minute penalty to register his 500th career goal.

Castleford’s domination conttinued when Gale’s kick was fumbled by Fetuli Talanoa near his own try line and Mike McMeeken pounced for a 22nd minute try that Gale goaled.

The home side defended magnificently to survive 23 consecutive tackles after conceding two penalties near their own posts.

Scott Taylor was halted just short, Michael Shenton’s tackle foiled Jamie Shaul and Jake Webster and Jy Hitchcox bundled Talanoa into touch as Hull’s sustained pressure came to nothing.

Castleford then shot further ahead two minutes before half-time when Gale blocked Shaul’s kick and Zak Hardaker scooped up the ball to celebrate his permanent new four and a half year deal with the Tigers with a spectacular 55-yard solo try that Gale goaled.

In an untidy second-half, Gale edged Tigers further ahead with a 50th minute penalty goal after Sneyd was penalised for a ball steal.

Gale then attempted a drop goal but the ball hardly got off the ground and when Albert Kelly gathered the ball and attempted to break out of defence he was flattened by a crunching tackle from Webster which referee Chris Kendall put on report.

Neither side was able to stamp any authority on the game as play became increasingly scrappy.

Sika Manu had an effort ruled out by the video referee for a knock on before Albert Kelly put in Fonua for his second touchdown 14 minutes from time and Sneyd converted to cut the deficit to 22-10.

Gale made it six goals from six kicks with a penalty three minutes later to give the Tigers a 14 point cushion but Talanoa then gave Hull hope when he went over at the corner. Sneyd added a touchline conversion.

Talanoa crossed for his second try four minutes from time and Sneyd kicked another touchline goal but the Tigers held out.

Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Hitchcox, Webster, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Sene-Lefao, McShane, Millington, Foster, McMeeken, Milner. Subs: Massey, Springer, Patrick, Holmes.

Hull FC: Shaul; Fonua, Connor, Griffin, Talanoa; Kelly, Sneyd; Bowden, Houghton, Watts, Minichiello, Washbrook, Manu. Subs: Fash, Taylor, Thompson, Turgut.

Referee: Chris Kendall.

Attendance: 8,371.