HOLDERS Hull edged closer to a second successive Wembley appearance after beating Castleford 32-24 yesterday to book their place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals.
Castleford’s hopes of a league and cup double were ended by a disciplined Hull side who looked to score from every opportunity presented to them at The Circle.
That meant Jake Connor’s kicking was vital and his eight goals went a long way to securing Hull’s place in the last four.
Carlos Tuimavave opened the scoring for Hull in the fourth minute with an 85m interception try, the 25-year-old stepping in front of Jake Webster to take Ben Roberts’s pass and race to the line.
Things got even better for Hull when Fetuli Talanoa powered his way over in Hull’s next set. Video referee James Child was called upon to award the score before Connor’s right boot made it 12-0 with eight minutes played.
Castleford took 28 minutes to register their first points.
Just as play looked to have broken down, the ball arrived at the feet of Roberts, who made amends for his role in Tuimavave’s try by strolling through a static Hull defence to score under the posts. Luke Gale’s conversion made it 12-6 to the hosts.
Connor’s restart sailed over the dead ball line to give the resurgent Tigers a penalty on the halfway line and, on their very next set, Castleford drew level. Like Hull, Castleford scored on back-to-back possessions and Gale’s conversion wiped out their opponents’ early 12-point lead.
Hull quickly responded, going in front 14-12 from a penalty.
Castleford battled back again and drew level with Roberts’ second try, going ahead for the first time in the match 18-16 thanks to Gale’s conversion.
But Connor slotted home his third penalty to draw Hull back on terms. The Tigers then gave away two more penalties — with Connor making up with the second after missing the first.
The holders were winning even though they had scored fewer tries than their opponents, but they addressed that balance when Mahe Fonua went
over in the 65th minute after Mark Minichiello kept the play alive by running 30m cross-field. Connor’s conversion took Hull eight points clear 26-18.
Castleford were shaking and they suffered another blow when Hull scored their fourth try, Danny Houghton’s break leading to Jamie Shaul going over. Connor tagged on two more to make it 32-18.
Greg Minikin pulled a try back for the visitors and Gale’s conversion reduced the deficit to 32-24. But Hull held on.