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MATCH REPORT: Battling Rovers lose at Warrington

Snapshot: Will Oakes celebrates his call-up to the England Academy with two tries. Ryan Shaw also goes over twice. Rovers race into an 18-4 lead before the Wolves pull away.

Despite scoring some smart tries, the Robins’ final game of the 2017 season ended in defeat as Warrington cut loose in the second half.

Tim Sheens shuffled the deck for his side’s final game of the season, with the experienced quartet of Jamie Ellis, Thomas Minns, Lee Jewitt and Maurice Blair being recalled to face a strong Warrington side. Jordan Abdull and Graeme Horne missed out after picking up injuries against Catalans, but youngsters Will Oakes and Chris Atkin were again given the chance to impress.

The Wolves got the game underway through the boot of Stefan Ratchford and Rovers were quickly into their stride, dumping Ben Pomeroy over the sideline after a great defensive read by Atkin. That gave the Red and Whites possession just short of halfway, and a high tackle from Ashton Sims quickly advanced that position to the edge of Warrington’s quarter, where the Robins immediately opened the scoring.

Ellis and Atkin combined well in midfield, finding Ben Cockayne in space and he fired a lovely cut-out ball to Oakes, who showed fantastic strength to power in at the corner.

Ellis added a pin-point touchline conversion, and as the home side looked for a swift response, Rovers’ defence raised their intensity to force an error from Peta Hiku and relieve the Warrington pressure.

Having survived that, the Robins rolled down the field and looked to have increased their lead when George Lawler was halted short, and on the next play, Atkin sent Ben Kavanagh crashing at the line. The prop got the ball down, but after consulting with his assistant, referee Gareth Hewer disallowed the score for a double movement.

That was a let-off for the Wolves, and they quickly capitalised on it as Kevin Brown’s grubber earned them a repeat set from a drop-out, and quick hands down the short side put Pomeroy over at the corner.

Harvey Livett couldn’t convert from the touchline, and the Robins were rather unfortunate not to have the opportunity to hit back straight away when Ellis’ clever reverse-kick caught Ratchford out of position. Atkin was chasing through up the middle, only to be taken out by Sims, and after no penalty was forthcoming, Maurice Blair was penalised for a high tackle on Ratchford.

The luck of the bounce didn’t seem to be going the Red and Whites’ way, but their fortunes took a turn for the better soon after when Atkin’s clearing kick ricocheted off Jack Hughes and fell kindly for Chris Clarkson. The forward snapped up possession and raced into the clear before putting in a lovely angled kick towards the supporting Ryan Shaw. He dribbled the ball into the in-goal area before beating Ratchford to the touchdown for a superb – and well-deserved score.

The travelling army of Rovers fans had barely finished celebrating that picture-book effort than the Robins were racing away for another. Just a couple of tackles after the restart, Blair hit a great line in behind the play-the-ball to break into the clear. The back-rower had support pouring up on both his inside and outside, but after carrying the ball almost 50 metres, Blair calmly found Shaw and he finished in style.

Ellis tagged on both conversions to give the Red and Whites a 14-point lead, but the introduction of Brad Dwyer and Andre Savelio from the bench sparked the Wolves into life approaching half-time.

A Brown chip allowed Ratchford to out-jump Matty Marsh to score, before Dwyer powered over from dummy-half after consecutive sets of Warrington pressure on the Robins’ line.

Livett added both conversions to pull the Wolves back to within two points of the Red and Whites at the break after a tight opening 40 minutes.

Half-Time: Warrington Wolves 16       Hull Kingston Rovers 18

The Robins had given a good account of themselves in the first half, and they scrambled well in the early minutes of the second to keep the home side at bay. Matty Russell was wrapped up just short of the line before great scrambling on the short side held Livett up before forcing him over the touch in-goal line.

That was only a brief respite for Rovers’ defence though as a penalty soon had Warrington back on the attack again, and after Dwyer’s cross-field run, Kurt Gidley’s short ball put Savelio over.

Livett converted, and three minutes later both sides were reduced to 12-men after Jewitt and Hughes saw yellow for a fracas in back-play, and the extra space allowed the Wolves to cut loose, keeping the ball alive at every opportunity. That soon paid dividends when Hiku went close, and although he was held up on the line, the New Zealand international smuggled the ball away for Pomeroy to dive over.

The Red and Whites had been under almost constant pressure for the first 15 minutes of the second period, but when they finally managed to find some field position, they swiftly converted it into points.

Cockayne kept the ball alive on the last tackle, allowing Blair to kick high for Shaw. A combination of Russell and Livett denied him a chance to compete for the ball, but they couldn’t claim it cleanly and just managed to ground it for a drop-out before the Rovers man swooped in.

That gave the Robins a second set on the attack, and after Lawler went close from the play-the-ball, Ellis showed great vision and outstanding skill to float a cheeky dummy-half pass over three defenders on the short side and give Oakes a walk-in at the corner.

Ellis nailed his touchline conversion to draw the Red and Whites back to within two points of their hosts, but Warrington’s extra size and quality soon began to tell as the Robins tired.

First Brown’s short ball put Savelio over for his second, and then in a six-minute burst, Hiku, Ben Currie and Livett crossed as the score blew out in the dying stages.

That brought down the curtain on the Red and Whites’ season, and although the final score-line didn’t do justice to the Robins’ efforts both with and without the ball, they were greeted by a rapturous reception from the travelling Rovers fans after a fantastic 2017 campaign.

Full-Time: Warrington Wolves 46       Hull Kingston Rovers 24

Hull KR: 2. Ben Cockayne; 5. Ryan Shaw, 3. Thomas Minns, 20. Matty Marsh, 27. Will Oakes; 38. Chris Atkin, 7. Jamie Ellis; 37. Lee Jewitt, 19. George Lawler, 21. Rob Mulhern; 12. James Greenwood, 11. Maurice Blair, 33. Ben Kavanagh.

Replacements: 18. Zach Dockar-Clay, 10. Chris Clarkson, 17. Mitch Clark, 32. Kieren Moss.

Warrington: 1. Stefan Ratchford; 5. Matty Russell, 28. Harvey Livett, 35. Peta Hiku, 33. Ben Pomeroy; 6. Kevin Brown, 7. Kurt Gidley; 8. Chris Hill, 9. Daryl Clark, 10. Ashton Sims; 11. Ben Currie, 12. Jack Hughes, 14. Mike Cooper.

Replacements: 15. Brad Dwyer, 18. Andre Savelio, 23. Joe Philbin, 24. Benjamin Jullien.

Referee: Gareth Hewer            Attendance: 10,466

Photo: MATCH REPORT: Battling Rovers lose at Warrington