Castleford look to make it 15 wins in a row at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle as they host Hull FC in Round 20, just two weeks after getting knocked out of the Challenge Cup by the black and whites. The two sides lead the rest of the pack at the top of the table with Castleford 7 competition points ahead of Hull.
LAST TIME OUT
Last time out Castleford had recorded a vital 23-12 win away at rivals Leeds Rhinos. Ash Handley opened the scoring early on with a fortuitous try from a calamitous Ben Roberts error. A Greg Eden try and Luke Gale conversion soon levelled the scores before Luke Gale put the Tigers into the lead with a penalty in the 33rd minute.
Castleford continued in the same vein after the half with Zak Hardaker crossing for one of the tries of the season. Luke Gale added the extras to put the visitors 8 points up with just over 30 minutes left to play. Grant Millington soon backed up Hardaker’s try with a good finish of his own, and with Gale converting the try, Castleford led by 14 points.
Leeds, however, soon replied through Alex Cuthbertson to cut the lead to 8 points. Leeds couldn’t manufacture any more tries in the last 20 minutes of the game and Castleford stretched their lead once more with a Luke Gale penalty and drop goal to seal a much needed win after a disappointing loss the week prior.
Hull backed up their comprehensive win over Castleford two weeks ago with a big 22 point win against Wakefield at the KC Stadium. Jamie Shaul opened the scoring to put the home side ahead after a 16-minute deadlock. Fetuli Talanoa backed up Shaul’s try with a great finish of his own. James Batchelor levelled the scores with a try of his own, which was the first of three unanswered Wakefield tries that straddled the half time break.
Wakefield led 18-10 with just 20 minutes to play and it took 5 unanswered tries from Hull in the remainder of the game to separate the sides on the final hooter. Jamie Shaul added another to his tally, along with tries from Mark Sneyd, Mahe Fonua, Jansin Turgut and Jake Connor. With Sneyd converting all five, the black and whites romped to victory to make it three losses in a row for Wakefield.
Last time out the Hull halfbacks were very influential in the game, with Jake Connor essentially kicking the black and whites to victory. Now with Mark Sneyd back Hull can only be stronger in particular in the game management department. Although Jake Connor was an apt replacement, Mark Sneyd is one of the most pragmatic halfbacks in Super League, and considering Hull will most likely employ the same game plan as in their last clash, Hull will be even more effective.
Conversely, the last time the two sides met Luke Gale didn’t fire on all cylinders, and will need to replicate his form from last week’s game at Headingley if the Tigers are to be successful. Ben Roberts stood out against Hull in their loss when scoring two tries and it looks as though he is in a great vein of form.
If Roberts and Gale can combine in attack as they usually do, and drive their side to a high completion rate they’ll run away with this one. However, if Sneyd and Kelly get the same success as Connor and Kelly did last time out when taking the points from the tee, they could sneak a win it. The halves will have a massive say in this one.
Just two weeks ago, Hull employed a progressive game plan and caused a shock upset by knocking Castleford out of the Challenge Cup. If they play the same way this time out, I have no doubt it’ll be harder but it’s still possible that they could sneak a win. However, Castleford were error ridden and as a result couldn’t score as many points as they normally would.
Hull shocked Castleford by keeping the scoreboard ticking over and I can’t see Castleford letting it happen again. They’ll come out with better discipline and fewer errors after being caught out on a bad day at the office last time out. Without doubt, they’ve come out of the loss a stronger side and after a good performance against Leeds they should have this one in the bag. Castleford by 10+.
Castleford Tigers: Eden, Foster, Gale, Hardaker, Hitchcox, Holmes, Larroyer, Massey, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Monaghan, Patrick, Roberts, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Springer, Webster.
Hull FC: Shaul, Fonua, Tuimavave, Griffin, Talanoa, Kelly, Sneyd, Taylor, Houghton, Watts, Minichello, Connor, Thompson, Washbrook, Manu, Bowden, Turgut, Fash, Matongo.