MATCH REPORT: Rovers secure return to Super League
Snapshot: A Thomas Minns try and two Jamie Ellis goals edge Rovers ahead at the break. An 80-metre interception from Ryan Shaw extends their lead. A huge defensive effort secures promotion.
The Robins secured their return to Super League with a performance packed with spirit and determination which secured victory over Widnes.
Coaching the 700th club game of his long and distinguished career, Tim Sheens recalled fit-again Jordan Abdull alongside Jamie Ellis in the half-backs. The only other change to the side which defeated Featherstone the previous week was the loss of Justin Carney to a calf problem, which allowed Kieren Moss to return on the wing. Chris Clarkson made his 200th career appearance in the back-row.
The Red and Whites got the game underway in wet and greasy conditions, and their defence was given an early examination by Widnes as the visitors had the better of the early exchanges, controlling field position before earning a repeat set from a drop-out.
Rovers responded with some strong defence, forcing a fumble by Jack Buchanan before Thomas Minns’ strong carry earned them a penalty and easy passage up to half-way. Abdull then won a repeat set with a beautiful grubber, and the Robins turned that position into points when Gil Dudson was penalised for a high shot on Lee Jewitt.
Ellis kicked the simple penalty to give Rovers an early lead, and they quickly looked to build on that as an early kick from Ellis in the next set drew a fumble from Corey Thompson. The Robins turned down another kickable penalty in favour of hunting a try, and they almost got it when Ben Kavanagh almost burrowed his way over the line.
The Vikings’ defence held strong through a period of pressure from the Red and Whites, and then immediately hit back to take the lead. Danny Craven’s high kick was caught by Ryan Ince, who offloaded to Chris Houston, and he sent Hep Cahill crashing over.
Lloyd White slotted over the conversion, but the introduction of Mose Masoe, James Greenwood and Shaun Lunt from the bench sparked the Robins into action. Some great carries allowed Rovers to force back-to-back sets through a pair of drop-outs, and a strong charge from Maurice Blair set up the position for George Lawler to go close. Lunt chanced his arm from the play-the-ball, dummying and twisting towards the line before reaching out to get the ball down.
Referee Gareth Hewer handed the decision to video referee Robert Hicks with an initial call of ‘no try’, and that was confirmed as Lunt lost possession just short of the line.
Despite that some big defence from Masoe drew an error from Widnes deep in their half, and after a lengthy stoppage for treatment to a head injury to Thompson, Rovers went wide. Chris Dean raced in to wrap up Adam Quinlan, but on the last tackle, Abdull attacked the short side. Masoe looped around to the short side and looked to have been wrapped up, but the big man somehow managed to deliver an unbelievable offload for Thomas Minns to dive over.
Ellis made no mistake with the conversion from wide out to give the Red and Whites a slender lead going into the break.
Half-Time: Hull Kingston Rovers 8 Widnes Vikings 6
There was little to separate the two sides after the tightest of first halves, and the Robins looked to get on the front foot right from the restart through some smart kicking from Abdull. However a smart kick into the corner and big chase from Andrew Heffernan almost forced an error from Danny Craven ten metres from his line.
The Widnes man picked up a knock in the heavy collision, and after review by the video referee, Heffernan was rather harshly penalised and placed on report. That allowed the Vikings free passage away from their quarter, but the Red and Whites were soon back on the attack again after a superb effort by Heffernan saw him strip the ball from Ince. Jack Buchanan was then penalised for holding down and Ellis opted to kick at goal, however from 30 metres out, the half-back hooked his kick just wide.
A Lee Jewitt error soon after presented the visitors with good field position in their hunt for a response, but as Houston set sail for the line, a posse of red jerseys flooded across to wrap the back-rower up and pile him over the sideline.
The Robins were struggling to put together some of the fluid attacking they showed at points in the first half, and that was allowing the Vikings to grow in confidence and continue to batter against Rovers’ try line.
Roared on by the Craven Park faithful, the Red and Whites continued to repel the visitors with some fantastic defensive efforts. Moss did brilliantly to hold Stefan Marsh up as he looked to power over at the corner, and the Minns raced across to join the tackle and drive the Widnes man over the touch in-goal line to win Rovers a 20-metre tap.
The introduction of Danny Walker from the bench had sparked the visitors and given them a new attacking threat around the ruck, and it was some good play from the young hooker that led to Houston charging into a hole and slipping the ball away to the supporting White. He raced into the backfield before linking up with Charly Runciman, but as the centre looked to find the unmarked Ince on the outside, Ryan Shaw swooped in to pick off the pass and storm away down the wing.
With the East Stand crowd roaring him on, the winger flew away from the Vikings’ chase, romping down the touchline to score a huge 80-metre try that sent the Craven Park crowd into raptures.
Ellis was off-target with a conversion that would have increased the Robins’ lead to two-scores with ten minutes to play, and the visitors immediately set about dashing Rovers’ hopes straight from the kick-off. Dean recovered possession from the short restart to put Widnes straight onto the attack, but Chris Clarkson produced a great tackle to stop the dangerous Joe Mellor before Moss rose highest to pouch the half-back’s high kick in his own in-goal area.
With nerves jangling all round KCOM Craven Park, the visitors threw caution to the wind in their attempts to snatch a result at the death. Abdull did superbly to read a Mellor chip to perfection, and even though he was pushed away from the bouncing ball by the Widnes man, James Greenwood was backing-up to secure possession and see off that threat.
Heading into the final minutes, the Vikings’ pressure was immense, but the Robins’ players continued to come up with big efforts. Abdull not only blocked an attempted kick-through from White, but then managed to fall on the loose ball to ensure Rovers could continue to run down the clock.
With just seconds left on the watch, the Robins needed one final big effort as the visitors set up camp on their try line, but despite their exhaustion, the Red and Whites kept battling and hung on to secure a famous win – and most importantly, secured the club’s immediate return to Super League for 2018.
Full-Time: Hull Kingston Rovers 12 Widnes Vikings 6
Hull KR: 1. Adam Quinlan; 5. Ryan Shaw, 22. Andrew Heffernan, 3. Thomas Minns, 32. Kieren Moss; 16. Jordan Abdull, 7. Jamie Ellis; 8. Nick Scruton, 19. George Lawler, 37. Lee Jewitt; 13. Danny Addy, 10. Chris Clarkson, 33. Ben Kavanagh.
Replacements: 12. James Greenwood, 9. Shaun Lunt, 39. Mose Masoe, 11. Maurice Blair.
Widnes: 2. Corey Thompson; 17. Stefan Marsh, 14. Chris Dean, 4. Charly Runciman, 28. Ryan Ince; 6. Joe Mellor, 32. Danny Craven; 10. Jack Buchanan, 9. Lloyd White, 15. Gil Dudson; 12. Matt Whitley, 11. Chris Houston, 13. Hep Cahill.
Replacements: 16. Alex Gerrard, 20. Manase Manuokafoa, 25. Tom Olbison, 35. Danny Walker.
Referee: Gareth Hewer Attendance: 8,227