‘Seasons Past’ – Five Years Ago

29
Jul
Category: Heritage

‘Seasons Past’ – Five Years Ago

The 2015 season was a real mixed bag for the club’s loyal following. A disappointing league campaign, a great Challenge Cup run, that ended with a real let-down in the final, and a 100% record in the Super Eights competition.

At the start of the season there was real optimism, with the signings of Aussie star Terry Campese, mercurial half-back Albert Kelly, Wigan centre Darryl Goulding, and the Parramatta pair of wing Ken Sio and prop Mitch Allgood. These five, along with six other new arrivals, made their debuts at home to Leeds on the opening day of the season in front of a then ground record 11,811 spectators. The eleven debuts that day are a club record, beating the nine in 2008 when Briscoe, Webster, Fox, Newton, Galea et al made their first Rovers appearances. Only the long-serving Kris Welham in the back division was not making his Rovers debut, although Ben Cockaynewas on the bench. Rovers led 30-16 early in the second half that day, with Campese, Kelly and Allgood scoring debut tries, but the Rhinos staged one of the revivals they are noted for, masterminded by Danny McGuire, and took the points with a 40-30 win.

It was a season when Rovers had more than their share of prop-forward problems. Ryan Bailey had signed from Leeds pre-season, but, due to personal issues, played in only one game; the popular Mick Weymann, injured in pre-season, had to hang up his boots in March; whilst Allgoodmissed a substantial part of the season. To balance these, experienced Aussie Dane Tilse arrived in April, followed by Tony Puletua on loan from Salford the following month. At half-back, player-of-the-year Kelly was outstanding, but Campese played only half the season due to injuries. A significant signing in March saw the arrival of Shaun Lunt from Huddersfield to bolster the hooking options. In the end, Rovers won just nine of their 22 Super League games, the highlight being a well-deserved 20-6 triumph at the KC, with Campese pulling the strings.

The Challenge Cup campaign started with a 50-30 fourth-round win at Odsal – a game dominated by Josh Mantellato, who showed his remarkable finishing ability with a four-try display, to which he added seven goals, for a personal tally of 30 points. In the fifth round, the Robins were handed an away tie at Wigan – which ended up being played at Leigh Sports Village as work was being done at the DW stadium – just two weeks after the Robins had been humiliated 60-0 by the same opposition. In a remarkable turnaround, the Robins won 16-12 through a fantastic defensive effort on a foul night. After that, a sparkling first half performance saw Rovers dispatch Catalan in the sixth round, to set up a semi-final with old cup foes Warrington. At a rain-lashed Headingley, Rovers got off to a poor start, but fought back spectacularly to lead 20-6 on the hour mark. A Wolves revivalbrought them to within two points, before Shaun Lunt twisted his way over for the winning try. Wembley was a total anti-climax, as the Robins never at any stage posed a threat in their 50-0 defeat to the Rhinos.

That game came in the middle of the new Super Eights competition – the bottom four in Super League played the top four in the Championship in a mini-league, with the top three assured of a Super League place the following season. Rovers, who had finished tenth in the regular season, won all seven of their Super Eight games. They started with a spectacular fightback from a 24-6 half-time deficit at Leigh; followed by an eventuallycomfortable win over an obdurate Halifax side; and then the crucial win – by 12-8 at Widnes, with tries by Welham and George Lawler, on his senior debut. There was then a Wembley hangover in a scratchy win over Wakefield; Bradford were swept aside 48-4 at Craven Park; and a 38-28 win at Sheffield assured Rovers of their place in Super League in 2016. The last game, a 46-22 home win over Salford, represented the 191st and final appearance of Kris Welham – Rovers’ best home-grown product of the Super League era.

Mantellato and ‘Bobby’ Blair, who had arrived with his friend Kelly, made most appearances, with 32 in the 35 games; Mantellato finished as top try-scorer with 27, which along with his 115 goals, gave him 338 points for the season – the highest since Mike Fletcher 25 years earlier.

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