MATCH REPORT: Rovers battle against league leaders
ST HELENS 26 – 4 HULL KINGSTON ROVERS: Classy Saints down Robins
Despite a huge defensive effort, Rovers paid the penalty for a raft of errors with the ball as they lost out to league-leaders St Helens.
Early tries to Ryan Morgan and James Roby gave the home side a 12-point advantage inside the opening ten minutes, but some great scrambling defence from the Red and Whites allowed them to slowly gain a foothold in the contest.
Ben Barba went over 10 minutes before the break to extend Saints’ lead, but that was cancelled out by a classy off-the-cuff last-tackle score from Junior Vaivai early in the second period.
However a string of handling errors early in the tackle count from the Robins cost them the chance to build on that, and Mark Percival and Barba’s second saw the home side take the spoils.
The Robins were behind the eight-ball early against top of the table St Helens, after the home side converted a first-minute penalty into the first try of the game. Danny Richardson’s long ball put Ryan Morgan on the outside of Junior Vaivai, and although the Rovers man hauled him down, the Saints man reached out of the tackle to score.
Six minutes later the home side were over again after a loose pass on halfway was ruled to have come off a Rovers hand. That gave Saints a repeat set and although Kyle Amor was stopped short, James Roby managed to get the ball down from dummy-half despite a valiant attempt from Adam Quinlan.
Richardson added both conversions, and it took another smart intervention from Quinlan soon after to prevent the home side extending their lead as the full-back snapped up a Roby grubber under intense pressure on his try line.
After a scrappy start that had given Saints the early momentum, the Robins began to get a foothold in the game, but Matty Marsh was left in a heap after making a tackle wide on the right. Despite sustaining a head injury, play was allowed to go on and three tackles later Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook spilled the ball just short of Rovers’ line. Luke Thompson dived on the loose ball to claim a try.
Referee Gareth Hewer appeared to award the score before consulting with both touch judge and in-goal judge, and ruling the Saints man had been held up.
The Robins had dodged a bullet, but Marsh left the field with a concussion and it took a great piece of scrambling defence from Liam Salter and Ryan Shaw to deny Ben Barba, before Mark Percival knocked-on.
Rovers’ last-gasp defence was working overtime as Joe Cator wrapped up Luke Thompson before Regan Grace was denied by a forward pass. However Saints were given another shot after Nick Scruton fumbled the ball, and Zeb Taia’s inside ball put Barba over.
Richardson converted, but the Robins were still showing flashes of their potential with ball in-hand. Chris Atkin ran the ball on the last tackle, evading two defenders before offloading to Maurice Blair. The ball looked to have been touched by a Saints hand, but play was allowed to go on and as Salter tried to keep it alive, he juggled and lost the ball forward in a big collision with Percival.
With half-time approaching, the Red and Whites began to finally find some field position, sparked by a 40-metre break from Ryan Shaw after Quinlan cleaned up another dangerous grubber. Atkin forced a repeat set with a neat kick through, but Mose Masoe’s fumble let the home side off the hook and they almost capitalised when Barba broke away on the last play of the half. The full-back kicked ahead for Tommy Makinson but the ball bounced dead to leave the Robins trailing by three scores at half-time.
Rovers needed a quick start to the second half, and they got just that with a stylish last-tackle effort in the first minute.
Blair kept the ball alive on the last, finding Salter who kicked back infield for Cator to re-gather and link up with Salter again. The ball was moved from right to left via Scruton and Atkin to find Vaivai out wide, and he kicked through, snapped up the ball and trampled over Barba to score a fantastic off-the-cuff try.
Saints re-established their dominance five minutes later though, when Dominique Peyroux’s break allowed Richardson to put Percival over out wide with a deft cross-kick.
Soon after another Richardson kick was palmed down by Makinson, allowing Atkin to intercept and break away, only for Elliot Wallis to fumble the ball on halfway. However the Robins’ defence again rose to the challenge, wrapping up Morgan and throwing him over the sideline as the home side looked to go wide.
Barba and Matty Lees were denied by a knock-on and a forward pass soon after, before a pair of desperate Cator tackles on his try line kept the home side at bay twice in quick succession.
Rovers were doing everything they could to keep Saints out, but simple errors caused by the fatigue of their defensive workload was costing them any chance of mounting a comeback. Then in the final play of the game, Chris Clarkson’s kick-through resulted only in Barba breaking 95 metres to score a try the Robins’ efforts didn’t really deserve.
“I think we had nine sets where we dropped in on the first two or three tackles,” Sheens said.
“We had an 11-7 penalty count against us, which didn’t help either, and then we lost our half-back Matty Marsh to concussion. We had a back-rower at hooker already, so we knew it was going to be very much damage-control tonight.
“We’re trying hard and the effort’s there, I can never fault that, but our execution but the more defending you do, the more tired you are and the more errors you make.
“We didn’t have a natural passer at nine, and that’s nothing against Joe. He’s only played about two games all year at York, and our Cup game against a Championship One side.
“There’s no issue in the club with regard to attitude, moral, effort or anything like that. We’ve just got to keep working, look back at our performance against Wigan and drill, drill and drill the players about skill under pressure.
“If you want to talk about effort, we had ‘Scrutes’ [Nick Scruton] chasing down Ben Barba late in the first half, forcing a kick that ended up going dead. That epitomises what the guys are doing, but they were just too classy for us tonight.
“Marsh had a head-clash, broke his nose quite badly and got a pretty heavy concussion, so he’s very unlikely for next week. Anything can happen as we’ve got an extra couple of days turnaround, but it’s a long shot.
“Liam Salter played with a bad foot, but he battled through and got through with it.
“We’re edging closer to having Lunt and McGuire back, maybe after the international weekend. I think the world might spin off it’s axis if we actually manage to get Lunt and Lee back at hooker, Atkin alongside McGuire in the halves and Quinlan out the back!”
Rovers welcomed back Josh Johnson after the prop served a one-match ban, but hooker Aaron Smith was unavailable under the terms of his loan. Tommy Lee failed a late fitness test on ongoing hamstring and shoulder injuries, so Matty Marsh was recalled along with Elliot Wallis, who replaced Kieren Moss on the wing.
St Helens: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 6. Theo Fages, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson; 17. Dominique Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 13. Louie McCarthy Scarsbrook.
Subs: 7. Matty Smith, 14. Luke Thompson, 15. Morgan Knowles, 20. Matty Lees.
Tries: Morgan (2 mins), Barba (28, 80), Roby (8), Percival (47)
Goals: Richardson 3/5
Hull KR: 1. Adam Quinlan; 5. Ryan Shaw, 22. Liam Salter, 2. Junior Vaivai, 37. Elliot Wallis; 20. Matty Marsh, 11. Maurice Blair; 23. Josh Johnson, 30. Joe Cator, 12. James Greenwood; 17. Chris Clarkson, 34. Danny Tickle, 15. James Donaldson.
Subs: 8. Nick Scruton, 10. Mose Masoe, 13. Ben Kavanagh, 24. Chris Atkin.
Tries: Vaivai (42)
Goals: Shaw 0/1
Referee: Gareth Hewer Attendance: 9,405
Man of The Match
Not for the first time this season, Adam Quinlan was everywhere for the Robins. Against his former club and the in-form Ben Barba, the Rovers custodian saved his side’s line on numerous occasions as well as causing the Saints problems with ball in-hand.
The Robins make the trip to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle for the Round 18 clash with the Castleford Tigers in Super League XXIII, on Sunday 10th June (kick-off 3:30pm).