MATCH REPORT: Valiant fightback comes up short at Warrington
WARRINGTON WOLVES 40 – 26 HULL KINGSTON ROVERS: Battling Rovers run out of steam against the Wolves
Despite a valiant second-half comeback, the Robins went down to defeat at the hands of Warrington.
The Red and Whites lost Shaun Lunt to a worrying knee injury in the second minute, before the home side ran in three tries in ten minutes just before the break to take a 20-point advantage into the interval.
With Rob Mulhern and Ben Kavanagh also on the sidelines undergoing head-tests, Rovers were up against it, but quick-fire tries from Maurice Blair, James Donaldson and Chris Atkin saw them back to within two points of their hosts. But the Robins ran out of steam in the final quarter as late tries from Tom Lineham, Stefan Ratchford and Ryan Atkins saw the scoreline inflate at the end.
Having already had to deal with the losses of Thomas Minns and Tommy Lee on the morning of the game, the last thing Rovers needed was more injuries, so the sight of skipper Shaun Lunt holding his knee just 85 seconds into the game was the worst possible start for the Robins.
Despite that early blow, the Red and Whites regrouped, using the ball smartly and drawing penalties from the home side’s defence through some smart footwork at the line. A high tackle by Tyrone Roberts on a dancing Adam Quinlan allowed Ryan Shaw to open the scoring with an angled penalty, but another spell of pressure soon after was repelled by the Wolves’ defence before they went on the offensive.
Ben Currie’s kick through deflected off Danny Tickle and straight into Bryson Goodwin’s hands. The centre sent Tom Lineham steaming towards the corner, but a fantastic covering tackle from Quinlan, Shaw and Danny McGuire put the winger over the sideline.
The Warrington pressure continued to build though, and five consecutive sets on Rovers’ line finally resulted in points after Goodwin and Currie were denied in quick succession. Chris Atkin beat Roberts to a Kevin Brown chip but the Wolves finally broke through when Mike Cooper was able to stretch over from close range.
The home side immediately doubled up when consecutive penalties helped them down the field and into position for Brown’s short ball to put Jack Hughes over, with Stefan Ratchford converting both.
The Robins finally got their hands on the ball after nine sets of continuous defence, but their break was only a brief one as another penalty put them back on the attack and Brown’s flat pass sent Currie over.
Rovers were beginning to run short of troops, with Rob Mulhern and Ben Kavanagh both undergoing head-tests, but James Donaldson’s break almost put Chris Atkin in for a try after the back-rower collected a Sitaleki Atauola fumble, only for Josh Charnley to get back and force him to lose the ball.
A Quinlan grubber close to the line was cut off by Goodwin, who broke downfield only to be run down by Nick Scruton as the Robins battled to stay in touch with their hosts. However their resistance was finally broken on the stroke of half-time when Roberts’ cross-kick was palmed back by Charnley. Junior Vaivai looked to have clearly grounded the ball in-goal, but referee Jack Smith overruled his touch judge and awarded a try to Hughes, sending the Wolves into the break firmly on top.
Rovers seemed to benefit from the chance to regroup at half-time though, as they came out all guns blazing after the restart.
Atkin’s high kick was allowed to bounce by a hesitant Ratchford, and Maurice Blair raced through to snap up possession and sprint away to score under the posts.
Five minutes later, the Robins were over again as they built pressure on the hosts’ line before a Danny McGuire grubber deflected up off a Warrington foot. Ben Westwood couldn’t reel the ball in and Donaldson showed great hands to pluck it out of the air and touch down.
The travelling Rovers fans could sense a famous comeback might be on the cards, and two minutes later the Red and Whites were in again when debutant Junior Vaivai showed his great footwork to carve through some loose marker defence and tear into the backfield. Atkin scampered up in support to take his pass and dart over, and with Shaw’s three conversions, Rovers were suddenly back within two points of the Wolves.
The home crowd were stunned, and as Warrington looked to build a response, the Robins dug in in defence. McGuire showed his experience with a well-judged covering tackle on Goodwin and Justin Carney chopped down Charnley as the winger broke away, but as the contest moved into the final quarter, Rovers were struggling for physicality and energy.
Mulhern returned having passed his head-test in the first half, but only in time to see Lineham burrow over from a Goodwin offload.
That opened the floodgates for the Robins, as Currie’s offload deflected off Danny Tickle and into Ratchford’s hands for a simple try, then as McGuire looked to kept the ball alive on the last tackle, Goodwin broke away and the ball was kept alive for Ryan Atkins to score.
Rovers could have buckled, but instead they dug deep and had the last word when McGuire dummied and sneaked over from close range for a try converted by Shaw.
“The last 15 or 20 minutes of the first half was too much tackling and too many penalties,” Sheens said.
“Losing [Shaun] Lunt early didn’t help with our leadership and direction. Marshy had to fill in, who is normally a half-back and who we were only anticipating on using in a short spell to give ‘Lunty’ a break.
“It looks like a ruptured medial ligament, so clinically it could be three months, but it could be more.
“Tommy Lee was ill but also had a hamstring issue, so we’re going to have to look at that because we’re now without both our hookers. We’re going to have to try and bring someone in I think.
“Junior trained really hard and we weren’t going to play him until next week, but we were forced to with two centres out and he did pretty well. It gave me a good chance to see him and Justin Carney play alongside each other, and they looked a strong pairing down that edge so we’ll keep going with that.
“I was very, very disappointed with the try on half-time. I’ve got a picture of Vaivai grounding the ball but the three officials missed it.
“That just made our job a lot harder in the second half. We needed to keep the scoreline down in the early minutes, but as it was we did better than that.”
Adam Quinlan returned to action after injuring his hamstring against Wigan on Easter Monday, while Nick Scruton made his comeback from a hip problem sustained in the same game. Andrew Heffernan missed out after being concussed against Widnes, while Tommy Lee and Thomas Minns were late withdrawals, so Matty Marsh came onto the bench and Junior Vaivai made his debut in the centres.
Warrington: 1. Stefan Ratchford; 2. Tom Lineham, 3. Bryson Goodwin, 4. Ryan Atkins, 27. Josh Charnley; 6. Kevin Brown, 7. Tyrone Roberts; 8. Chris Hill, 9. Daryl Clark, 10. Mike Cooper, 11. Ben Currie, 12. Jack Hughes, 34. Ben Westwood.
Subs: 17. Joe Philbin, 14. Dom Crosby, 16. Sialeki Akauola, 22. Morgan Smith.
Tries: Cooper (22 mins), Hughes (27, 39), Currie (31), Lineham (65), Ratchford (69), Atkins (72)
Goals: Ratchford 6/7
Hull KR: 1. Adam Quinlan; 5. Ryan Shaw, 22. Liam Salter, 2. Junior Vaivai, 36. Justin Carney; 7. Danny McGuire, 24. Chris Atkin; 21. Rob Mulhern, 9. Shaun Lunt, 10. Mose Masoe; 11. Maurice Blair, 34. Danny Tickle, 13. Ben Kavanagh.
Subs: 8. Nick Scruton, 20. Matty Marsh, 12. James Greenwood, 15. James Donaldson.
Tries: Blair (42), Donaldson (47), Atkin (49), McGuire (75)
Goals: Shaw 5/5
Referee: Jack Smith Attendance: 9,305
Man of The Match
Adam Quinlan was a livewire in attack, causing the Wolves’ defence problems with his footwork and speed, while weighing in with some crucial interventions in defence.
The Robins begin their Challenge Cup campaign on Sunday 22nd April as they travel to Bower Fold, Stalybridge, to take on Oldham RLFC (kick-off 3:00pm).