Match Report – St. Helens
Hull KR gave St Helens an almighty scare before suffering a heartbreaking 21-20 defeat in golden point.
Rovers staged a late fightback to force extra time but could not land the killer blow on the reigning Super League champions.
KR reporter James O’Brien delivers the verdict from the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The Robins have earned plaudits for their adventurous style since the season restarted but they showed another side of their game in Saints’ backyard.
Rovers reined themselves in somewhat and took St Helens on at their own game, going toe to toe with Kristian Woolf’s side.
Tony Smith has seen a significant defensive improvement from his team in recent weeks and they were superb once again on their own line.
Chances at the other end were few and far between but KR scored three tries through Dean Hadley, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Ethan Ryan as they showed their new-found clinical edge.
Will Dagger had a faultless night from the tee, with his fourth goal taking the game to golden point.
Rovers were one swing of the boot away from recording back-to-back Super League wins for the first time since July 2018 but Saints handled the pressure better despite being down to 12 men following Kevin Naiqama’s yellow card.
The Robins ultimately came away with nothing but no other side have challenged St Helens in the way Smith’s men have since the restart and there can be no doubt they are heading in the right direction.
KR named the same starting team – with Matt Parcell and Mitch Garbutt coming on to the bench – and they picked up where they left off defensively.
Saints hammered away at the Rovers line in the early stages but had only Lachlan Coote’s penalty to show for a concerted period of pressure.
The decision to go for goal was a nod of respect to the Robins and Smith’s side continued to repel St Helens with dogged goal-line defence.
A half-break from George Lawler gave KR a brief look at the Saints line and they left with points the next time they visited.
Jordan Abdull has been hugely influential since his recall and he was the architect again, his lovely delayed pass giving Hadley a clear run to the line.
Rovers had seen off Alex Walmsley and James Graham but Saints kept coming and eventually found a way through on 34 minutes.
Kenny-Dowall shot out of the line and he was punished by Jonny Lomax, the half-back keeping his composure to put Regan Grace over in the corner.
Coote converted from the touchline to edge St Helens ahead at the break but once again KR had more than matched the champions for 40 minutes.
The challenge for Rovers was to take the game deep into the closing stages, something they failed to do 12 days previous.
It was looking bleak in the early stages of the second half after a series of bad errors close to their own line.
KR were duly punished as Coote found Jack Welsby with a cut-out pass and the winger outfoxed Dagger to touch down in the corner.
Coote made no mistake once again to make it 14-6 and St Helens were almost out of sight when Welsby went in again, only to be pulled back for a forward pass.
Smith’s side are a resilient bunch and they were right back in it through Kenny-Dowall after Saints failed to deal with Mikey Lewis’ high kick.
Rovers were in an arm wrestle with the competition’s form side but it looked as if they were out of it when Elliot Minchella got a touch to a Saints pass on the last and Walmsley powered his way over in the fresh set.
But back came the Robins, with the excellent Lewis carving out a try for Ryan with the help of Kenny-Dowall.
Ryan’s acrobatic finish was converted by Dagger to leave KR two points behind with five minutes to go and the full-back sent the game to golden point after Naiqama was sin-binned for a high tackle on Kane Linnett.
That left Saints with 12 men for the extra-time period but they showed their experience to win it thanks to Theo Fages’ one-pointer towards the end of the first half.
Rovers had a man advantage in golden point but went for glory instead of getting in position to have a shot at goal, with Greg Minikin knocking on to leave KR up against it in the territory battle.
Good day – Mikey Lewis
The half-back was making just his third Super League appearance but is already making waves. Rugby league fans love a half-back who takes on the line and Lewis is always scheming.
The bigger picture
No side has done it tougher than Rovers since the restart in terms of strength of opposition. KR have now played Wigan and Saints twice this year, with more favourable games to come in the next couple of months.
Hull KR: Will Dagger, Ethan Ryan, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Kane Linnett, Greg Minikin, Jordan Abdull, Mikey Lewis, Weller Hauraki, Jez Litten, George Lawler, Matty Storton, Dean Hadley, Elliot Minchella
Bench: Daniel Murray, Mitch Garbutt, Nathaniel Peteru, Matt Parcell.
St Helens: Lachlan Coote, Jack Welsby, Kevin Naiqama, Josh Simm, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, James Graham, Zeb Taia, James Bentley, Morgan Knowles.
Bench: Dom Peyroux, Matty Lees, Kyle Amor, Aaron Smith.Back To Latest News +