O'Brien drop goal wins cup thriller!
Posted: Friday 9th April 2021 - 8:00 PM
A strong second half comeback from the Tigers against an impressive Hull KR side at Hull College Craven Park saw them secure a 32-33 win in the Betfred Challenge Cup
A try from Jordan Turner on the hooter as well as a drop goal from Gareth O’Brien after nearly over 100 minutes of thrilling rugby saw Cas secure passage into the quarter finals. The Tigers trailed 22-6 at the half but rode strong try-scoring performances from Paul McShane and Derrell Olpherts to comeback and take the game to extra time.
The game marked a return to Humberside a little sooner than the Fords would have imagined, having faced the Robins in a 20-30 victory in Adam Milner’s testimonial in mid-March. Both sides have had contrasting starts to the Super League season since then, with Cas winning two from two, while the luckless Robins were unfortunate to lose out via golden point against Catalans, before being downed by St Helens in Round Two.
There were a few changes for the Castleford side that started in pre-season, with Danny Richardson stepping into the halves and Gareth O’Brien starting at fullback to cover for Niall Evalds who was to miss out to celebrate the birth of his son with his partner. Meanwhile George Griffin returned to the starting line-up after missing the win over Leeds.
A blow for Tony Smith’s side preparations was the news only this week that club vice-captain Elliot Minchella would be ruled out for the season with an ACL injury, however with promising talent Mikey Lewis stepping into their dangerous back line alongside Ethan Ryan, and with the imposing Albert Vete and Korbin Sims, KR were still likely to be more than a match for the visitors.
Gareth O’Brien got Cas underway and were able to pin the hosts deep on the back of gritty defence from Aussie duo Cheyse Blair and Grant Millington, a penalty for being offside then gave the Tigers great attacking position as they looked to strike an early blow, but this was squandered through a knock on moments later.
Rovers then had the better of the opening period, going close through Shaun Kenny-Dowall on the last tackle only for Peter Mata’utia to save the day, grabbing his offload before it reached the lurking Ryan Hall. Subsequently, Michael Shenton and Oliver Holmes combined to hold up Luis Johnson as he crossed the tryline but was unable to touch down. The host’s early pressure told however and 8 minutes in they broke the deadlock with a fine move, Ethan Ryan scoring in the right hand corner, Abdull hitting the upright with his conversion attempt.
Nearly a quarter of game gone, and the Tigers had their first real attacking opportunity as Michael Shenton rose to collect Abdull’s floating Crossfield kick, kept his balance, and surged 30 yards downfield, to relive the besieged Cas defence and give them some valuable field position to start their set on.
Daryl Powell’s side needed a response to get back in the game and nearly found exactly that thanks to the talismanic Paul McShane, a trademark scoot from dummy half saw the number nine race up to Rovers’ 20m line, the ball was flung wide through Holmes, and then Shenton only for his final pass to Jordan Turner to be adjudged forward.
Whilst Cas had gone close through sporadic moments of magic, it was to take one more from man of the moment Jake Trueman for Cas’ first score. The stand-off continued his dazzling start to the season with a sharp break, slipping past two defenders off the back of sustained team pressure to open the visitors’ account. Danny Richardson continued his perfect record with the boot so far this season.
The Tigers slender lead was short lived and after conceding a penalty at midfield, the pressure was firmly back on. It told shortly after when Adam Quinlan was put through a gap and streaked straight under the posts to score with ten minutes left in the half.
The ill-discpline of the visitors was quickly becoming a theme, and another penalty conceded from the restart saw KR handed the momentum. Kenny-Dowall cut inside to work his way 10 yards out and from there it was down to Albert Vete to heave himself across the line and score, giving Tony Smith’s side a two-score lead. Before on their following set KR scored another simple but effective try with Matt Parcell going over from Dummy half to give Hull a 16-point lead with just five minutes to go till half time.
The introduction of Liam Watts and Adam Milner helped galvanise the Tigers and shortly before half time they were unlucky not to score with their right edge as O’Brien came into the line to help work an overlap, only for Hall to get a fortunate hand on a miss pass to Olpherts and keep the scores as they were at the hooter.
A stronger start offensively was in order if Cas were to turn this around and they couldn’t get much closer than a rampaging Jordan Turner crashing over only to be held up by a scrabbling group of KR defenders. A penalty against KR helped Daryl Powell’s side add more pressure before another forward pass to Turner at the critical moment cost them a score.
Another strip gave the Tigers their third position inside 10 yard line in just five minutes and they were finally able to take advantage and narrow the deficit with a looping ball out to Olpherts. Richardson then nailing the touchline conversion to get within 10.
Astonishingly this was narrowed ever further just moments later thanks to McShane: the reigning Man of Steel pouncing on a delicately weighted kick through that just sat up for him under the posts. The Tigers having been 16 points down were now just one score back. They were unfortunate not to tie things up just a few minutes later, a looping over the top pass this time going off Olpherts fingertips with the line beckoning.
It wasn’t all Cas to begin the second half however and after forcing a turnover as their opposition tried to play their way out of trouble, the home side showcased what their star skipper can do, Shaun Kenny-Dowall hauling defenders with him over the line to give KR their fifth try of the evening. Abdull again adding the extras.
It was the duo of Kenny-Dowall and Abdull who added more points on 65 minutes as a clean break through by the centre saw him find Abdull to put him over and give the Tigers a real challenge if they were to come back and progress to the next round.
The game was one of contrasting styles now with the Fords looking to claw their way back into the game with a quick score whilst the Robins were content to kick for touch nursing their two score lead. A shift play saw Mata’utia feed Olpherts on the right edge again and he bundled over several KR defenders to grab his second try of the evening, with the kick unfortunately being nudged just wide.
Having scored most of their points down their right edge, the Tigers looked to the left to bring the combination of Shenton and Turner into play as they chased the game, and after making good yardage all night, this combination put them 5 yards from the KR line and McShane weaved his way over on the next play with just minutes to spare.
A tense finale ensued with the Tigers looking to wrap up an improbable comeback. As the hooter sounded, Mata’utia drifted inside and threw a speculative ball to the left side, and this was juggled into the hands of McShane who scampered down the left wing, drawing a man and passing to Turner who galloped across with the last play of the game to tie the scores. A potentially game-winning conversion was agonisingly wide from Richardson, and the game entered golden point extra time.
The sides traded nervy opening sets, looking to find field position which could prove crucial, then Gareth O’Brien chanced his arm at the same set of sticks his scored “that” drop goal back in 2016, however his attempt was wayward. On their next attempt, another attempt was off target and this wrapped up the first five minutes of extra time. In the second period, the excellent Trueman made a vital break, which put his side in prime position, however Danny Richardson was unable to take the chance. Whilst for KR, Abdull’s long distance effort was wide of the mark.
The drop goals attempts were mounting as both Trueman and Mikey Lewis attempted to clutch a one-pointer attempt and secure the win, but this incredible game dragged on into a third period of extra time with no sign of a winner. Trueman went for a chip kick through to win it, but Jimmy Keinhorst was there to ground the loose ball.
From the drop out, the away side were able to gather vital momentum and, it was left to O’Brien to slot his kick from 15 yards out and secure the win.
Full Time: Hull KR 32-33 Castleford Tigers
Quinlan, Hall, Minikin, Kenny-Dowall, Ryan, Lewis Abdull, King, Parcell, Sims, Linnett, Johnson, Lawler
Vete, Litten, Mustapha, Keinhorst
Tries: Ryan, Quinlan, Vete, Parcell, Kenny-Dowall, Abdull
Conversions: Abdul (3/5), Lewis (1/1)
O’Brien, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Turner, Trueman, Richardson, Millington, McShane, Griffin, Holmes, Blair, Massey
Milner, Watts, Sene-Lefao, Smith
Tries: Trueman, Olpherts (2), McShane (2), Turner
Conversions: Richardson (4/5)
Drop Goal: O’Brien
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