Young Robins beaten at Featherstone
Despite Chris Heil and James Green both collecting debut tries, a young Robins side went down to defeat to Featherstone.
A new era at Craven Park got underway with a trip to the reigning Champions of the Co-Operative Championship, Featherstone Rovers. With games against Wigan and Hull FC to come, new coach Craig Sandercock used the contest to give the brightest and best young talents at the club the chance to show what they were capable of, so there were no less than 14 debutants in the 22-man squad
Amongst the glut of debutants were new signings George Griffin, Keal Carlile, Graeme Horne and Tyla Hepi, son of former Hull FC player Brad. They were joined by the newest graduates from the Robins' Academy, Nick Johnson, Chris Heil, Liam Salter, James Green and Aaron Ollett.
Unsurprisingly, the opening exchanges were conservative and pretty physical, as the Robins looked to blow away the cobwebs and get themselves up to speed, and when their first attacking opportunity came, a poor pass from Matthew Beharrell saw it come to nothing.
Featherstone meanwhile, were quickly into their stride having got their pre-season campaign underway the week before, and took the lead after Rovers were penalised twice in quick succession for holding down.
Keal Carlile's clearing kick from dummy-half was followed-up well by his team-mates, but first James Green, and then Chris Heil were pulled-up. That handed the home side excellent field position, and as the ball was moved wide, Beharrell slipped in the muddy conditions allowing Tangi Ropati to dive over.
The Red and Whites looked for a response, and good work from Heil saw him get on the outside of his opposite number Sam Smeaton and shrug him, off before racing away down the touchline. The young centre held off the attentions of two Featherstone tacklers, before flicking the ball out to Nick Johnson.
The home side got back to pull him down, and deny Richard Beaumont, as he tried to barge over next to the posts.
While struggling to find the cutting edge to break through the Featherstone defence, there were a number of positives for the Robins, not least of which, a solid opening spell from Joel Clinton on his first game back from shoulder surgery.
Heil also contributed well on his first 40 minutes as a professional, with a couple of strong carries to go with his break.
Half-Time: Featherstone Rovers 4 Hull KR 0
The home side were out of the blocks quickly after the restart, making good ground in their first set, before launching a towering bomb which Sam Latus spilled under intense pressure having risen high above four players.
His team-mates scrambled well in the resulting set though, working hard to keep Featherstone at bay before getting onto the front foot themselves.
Heil twice got on the outside of Smeaton, forcing the home side to battle to keep him out, before Tom Saxton rose high to beat Dave Scott to a Beharrell cross-kick.
The young Robins were beginning to get into a rhythm, and soon drew level thanks to an eye-catching score.
The impressive Dave Petersen threw a beautifully-disguised short ball to send Aaron Ollett striding through a hole. The young forward didn't panic though, and held the ball up, waiting for the support to arrive, which it did in the form of Heil.
With the cover coming across, he set sail for the corner, and used his power to bump off two Featherstone tacklers as he ploughed over for a well-deserved score.
Kristian Bell slotted over the conversion from the sideline, and six minutes later, the Red and Whites were in again.
More good work from Petersen got the Robins going forward, and after Ollett had been halted short, Green steamed onto a short ball to crash over under the posts.
Bell again converted, but the Championship Grand Final winners were soon back on the attack themselves after a knock-on had put them on the front foot.
Heil pulled off a good cover tackle to deny Featherstone on the left flank, but the ball was quickly transferred across from touchline to touchline, and Danny Grimshaw sent Saxton squeezing in at the corner.
The young Robins were still ahead, but a penalty in the first set after the restart carried the home side back into the Red and Whites' quarter, and they took full advantage.
Grimshaw took the ball at pace and attacked the line, throwing an outrageous dummy and stepping back to the inside, beating two defenders as he darted over.
Tom Carr converted, but the Robins came straight back again as full-time approached.
Heil again attacked his opposite number, only to be pulled down just short, but on the next play, George Griffin hit a flat pass to crash over the line. But his joy was short-lived, as the referee ruled that he had capitalised on a dummy-runner who had already gone through the line, and rather harshly disallowed the try.
That proved to be the Red and Whites' final chance of the game, and in the final minute, Jack Bussey was first to a Grimshaw grubber to the in-goal area to round off Featherstone's win. Carr converted, but despite the result, the game was a valuable run-out for the Robins.
Heil, Petersen and Green all took their chances to impress their new coach, while Clinton, Carlile and Jason Netherton all made successful returns from injury.
Full-Time: Featherstone Rovers 20 Hull KR 12
Hull KR: 21. Sam Latus; 5. David Scott, 29. Liam Salter, 32. Chris Heil, 31. Nick Johnson; 6. Kristian Bell, 7. Matthew Beharrell; 8. Joel Clinton, 25. Keal Carlile, 33. James Green; 30. Aaron Ollett, 26. George Griffin, 28. Dave Petersen.
Replacements: 22. Scott Wheeldon, 18. Graeme Horne, 15. Liam Watts, 17. Loyd Ofori, 19. Curtis Pullen, 14. James Beaumont, 16. Jason Netherton, 24. Richard Beaumont, 34. Tyla Hepi.
Featherstone: 8. Matty Brook; 23. Tom Carr, 3. Sam Smeaton, 18. Tangi Ropati, 5. Tommy Saxton; 16. Danny Grimshaw, 33. Jack Bussey; 32. Nathan Freer, 9. Ben Kaye, 15. Michael Haley; 24. Mufaro Mvududu, 4. Andy Bostock, 17. Greg Worthington.
Replacements: 11. Jon Grayshon, 19. Lewis Jones, 14. Tim Spears, 10. Stuart Dickens, 6. Andy Kain, 25. Dave Nurse, 22. Jack Ormanroyd, 21. Kyran Johnson.
Referee: Mr D. Merrick