Relegation-threatened Hull KR came from 14-0 down to claim a point from their dramatic 24-24 draw with high-flying Castleford at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle.
Winger Jy Hitchcox scored four tries for the Tigers but most of his good work was undone in a thrilling finale as injuries took a cruel toll and the visitors displayed tremendous spirit to claw their way into the Betfred Super League clash.
Trailing 24-12, Rovers ran in two tries in the last 12 minutes to draw level and half-back Chris Atkin was wide with two drop goal attempts to win it, while Castleford’s Jake Trueman was off target with one as the game ended in a stalemate.
Castleford were guilty of over-playing at times but they were thwarted by the scrambling defence of Hull KR, who gave a debut to former Wigan forward Joel Tomkins and had hooker and captain Shaun Lunt back from a two-month injury lay-off.
There was little hint of the drama to come when Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, playing at stand-off on his home debut, created an opening for second rower Mike McMeeken to score the opening try after only two minutes.
Young full-back Calum Turner added the goal and the home side quickly extended the lead, courtesy of a length-of-the-field try from Hitchcox.
Right winger Greg Minikin was the architect, gathering Atkin’s lofted kick on his own line and splitting the visitors’ defence with a searing break through the middle and Trueman provided the support before kicking to the corner for Hitchcox to finish off.
Trailing 10-0, Hull KR brought on Lunt midway through the first half but they continued on the back foot and slipped further behind on 23 minutes when Trueman’s kick to the corner once more exposed the inexperience of 18-year-old winger Elliot Wallis and Hitchcox collected his second try.
Turner was unable to convert either of Hitchcox’s tries, though, and despite being outplayed for most of the game, the visitors suddenly found themselves back in the game thanks to tries either side of the interval.
Centre Junior Vaivai profited from James Greenwood’s pass out of the tackle to touch down four minutes before the break and full-back Adam Quinlan scored at the start of the second-half kick-off after Atkin had gathered the ball from Quinlan’s kick-off.
Ryan Shaw added both conversions to cut the deficit to just 14-12 but Hitchcox put more daylight between the sides when he completed his hat-trick on 48 minutes following a blockbusting run from prop Junior Moors.
But the Tigers struggled to put their opponents away and injuries to forwards Adam Milner, Joe Wardle and Jesse Sene-Lafao compounded their disjointed play.
Turner put two scores between the teams with a penalty and Castleford looked to have made the game safe when Shenton worked Hitchcox over for his fourth try.
But replacement goalkicker Paul McShane was unable to add the conversion and prop Mose Masoe grabbed a lifeline when he plunged over for Rovers’ third try seven minutes from the end.
Danny Tickle and Quinlan were then both held up as the visitors laid siege to the Castleford tryline and the pressure eventually told when Vaivai pounced on Atkin’s grubber kick for his second try and Shaw kicked his fourth conversion.