Despite Mick Weyman's first try in red and white, Rovers went down to a narrow 20-18 defeat in their final pre-season game at Huddersfield Giants.
With a fortnight to go before the season opener against Leeds, the Robins travelled to West Yorkshire for their final warm-up game of pre-season. Again, Craig Sandercock named a squad featuring all available fit players, so youngsters Connor Robinson, Matty Beharrell and Macauley Hallett were given another opportunity to impress from the bench.
New signing Jonathan Walker made his first run-out in the front row after being given the all-clear following the car accident which ruled him out of the derby the week before, while Graeme Horne shook off a knee injury sustained against Hull to line-up against his former club. The only notable absentee was Justin Poore, who was forced to withdraw through illness late in the week.
The Robins' defence was given an early work-out by the Giants, after Danny Brough's wind-assisted kick-off forced a drop-out with the first action of the afternoon. Rovers scrambled well to hold Kyle Wood up inches short though, before a piece of magic from Greg Eden launched the Red and Whites' first attack of a blustery afternoon.
The former Huddersfield fullback did brilliantly to attack a Leroy Cudjoe chip before racing away downfield. Brough tracked back to pull him down and strip possession, only to knock-on in the process and allow the Robins to keep their momentum going. But two tackles later, as Kris Keating looked to test the Giants' right side, his short ball to Kris Welham was picked off by Cudjoe who was able to race 70 metres unopposed to open the scoring.
Rovers were soon back on the front foot though, after Antonio Kaufusi's late hit on Keating brought a penalty from referee James Child. That carried the Robins into excellent field position, and after Jamie Langley went close, Josh Hodgson's sharp dummy-half pass allowed Mick Weyman to crash through two defenders and score.
Craig Hall tagged on the conversion, before the Robins' scrambling defence was given another examination by the home side a few minutes later following a break by Kaufusi. The Red and Whites rushed back to close him down, before good work from Hall and Liam Salter on the right flank snuffed out a dangerous move involving Brough and Brett Ferres, and Jonathan Walker produced an excellent ball-and-all tackle on Luke Robinson on the next play.
As the half progressed, the home side began to incur the wrath of referee Child as they fought to slow the Robins' forwards down, but with a strong wind making ball movement a tricky prospect, Rovers were struggling to break down a mean and determined Huddersfield defence. With the ball, the home side were asking plenty of questions of the Robins, but the men from East Hull were working well in defence to frustrate them, typified by some sparkling work from Eden behind his own line to save a drop-out.
The former Giant showed some dazzling footwork and a strong fend to beat three tacklers on his way back into the field of play, only to spoil his good work with a risky pass which went to ground. That gave Huddersfield another chance, but once again, the resilient Rovers defence dug deep and saw off the home side.
With half-time approaching - and not for the first time in the game - Brough got on the wrong side of referee Child with a word or two out of place which first saw him penalised, and then dispatched to the sin-bin. That presented the Robins with one last attacking chance before the break, and they needed no second invitation.
Hall threaded a grubber through the Giants' defence and across the face of the posts, which took a wicked bounce in front of Robinson, and Welham swooped in to pluck the ball out of the air and touch down. Hall's conversion rounded off the first half, as both sets of players rushed back to the warmth of the dressing rooms after a solid first period.
Half-Time: Huddersfield Giants 4 Hull KR 12
Having given a good account of themselves in the first period, the Robins looked to pick up where they left off at the break, however an early penalty saw them put on the defensive in the early exchanges.
Referee Child penalised James Green for a late nudge on Shaun Lunt, and a rejuvenated Huddersfield wasted little time in converting it into the opening score of the second stanza as Cudjoe reeled in Robinson's flat pass and darted over the line in the next set. Despite a wayward conversion attempt from Brough, that score energised the home side, and they were soon knocking at Rovers' door again.
Ukuma Ta'ai and former London back-rower Chris Bailey were both held up short by some strong try-line defence from the Robins, but a momentary lapse in concentration on the short side was ruthlessly punished by Cudjoe. The Huddersfield centre spotted the tightest of openings on the wing, and fired a long cut-out ball from dummy-half to allow Jermaine McGillvray to squeeze in at the corner.
Brough's conversion edged the home side into the lead, and the Giants' captain was beginning to look dangerous with the ball in-hand against a Rovers side rotating their squad and changing their combinations. Spotting an opportunity to run the ball on the last tackle a couple of minutes later, Brough backed his pace and threw a dummy before slicing between a pair of front-rowers and racing into the Robins' quarter. Eden did well to shepherd the half-back towards the recovering defence though, and together with Welham, Rovers' full-back denied the lively stand-off.
That was only a brief respite for the Robins though, and as rain began to add to the already testing conditions, Huddersfield looked to capitalise on a penalty to extend their lead. Referee Child ruled that Rovers' defence was guilty of slowing down a play-the-ball just inside Giants territory, and the home side duly used that platform to launch another attack which culminated in Scott Grix cutting back infield and spinning over the line.
Brough converted again, and with the game entering the final quarter, the home side began to ring the changes too. That helped the Robins to wrestle the momentum back from the Giants, and with youngsters Matty Beharrell and Connor Robinson in the half-back roles, Rovers almost cut Huddersfield's advantage.
A towering bomb from Beharrell was juggled by Grix under intense pressure from three Robins, who forced the Giants' full-back to fumble the ball on his own line. The onrushing Rhys Lovegrove was first to dive in and touch down the loose ball, but the sound of Child's whistle cut his celebrations short, as the referee ruled that Rovers' chasers had been offside and chalked off the try.
With time running down, the Robins laid siege to the Huddersfield line in search of a consolation score, but with their experienced men on the sidelines and conditions at their worst, a breakthrough was proving difficult to find. But in the final minutes, Beharrell showed some lovely footwork to take a long, floating pass under pressure and sneak through a half-gap in the Giants' defence. A combination of a despairing ankle-tap and the slippery conditions saw the young half-back fall agonisingly short of the whitewash, but while he could still have scrambled his way over for what would have been his first try in the senior set-up, Beharrell unselfishly popped a pass up for the supporting Hall to score.
Hall kept his flawless pre-season goal-kicking record intact by slotting over the conversion, but there was no time for the Robins to find a winning score, as Grix cleaned up a Beharrell chip a couple of plays after the restart to bring the curtain down on the contest. Despite the result, Rovers will go into their Round One clash with the Leeds Rhinos in confident mood, having shown plenty of improvement and positive intent during their pre-season outings.
Full-Time: Huddersfield Giants 20 Hull KR 18
Hull KR: 1. Greg Eden; 2. Ben Cockayne, 3. Kris Welham, 18. Liam Salter, 5. David Hodgson; 19. Craig Hall, 7. Kris Keating; 17. Jonathan Walker, 9. Josh Hodgson, 10. Mick Weyman; 11. Kevin Larroyer, 13. Jamie Langley, 12. Neville Costigan.
Replacements: 30. Macauley Hallett, 15. Graeme Horne, 24. Omari Caro, 28. Matty Beharrell, 29. Connor Robinson, 20. Jordan Cox, 14. Adam Walker, 23. James Green, 21. Keal Carlile, 16. Jason Netherton, 22. Rhys Lovegrove.
Huddersfield: 1. Scott Grix; 2. Jermaine McGillvray, 3. Leroy Cudjoe, 4. Joe Wardle, 5. Aaron Murphy; 6. Danny Brough, 7. Luke Robinson; 20. Antonio Kaufusi, 19. Kyle Wood, 10. Craig Kopczak; 11. Brett Ferres, 15. Larne Patrick, 13. Chris Bailey.
Replacements: 8. Eorl Crabtree, 9. Shaun Lunt, 14. Michael Lawrence, 21. Anthony Mullally, 16. David Faiumu, 17. Ukuma Ta'ai, 19. Jodie Broughton, 23. Josh Johnson, 24. Peter Aspinall, 25. Nathan Mason, 26. Ben Blackmore, 27. Jake Connor, 28. Kruise Leeming, 29. Jack Miller.
Referee: James Child