EASTER MONDAYS have traditionally been days to forget for Hull KR.
Two years ago they endured an embarrassing 84-6 mauling at home to Wigan Warriors, the club’s biggest ever defeat, while 12 months ago they were vanquished painfully again in Perpignan.
Indeed, until this hard-fought result yesterday, they had never recorded back-to-back Super League wins over the Easter period, often joyously defeating fierce rivals Hull FC first up but then being left drained for the second challenge soon after.
Chris Chester’s side are a different beast now, however, as they demonstrated by battling to a priceless success against Huddersfield Giants which takes them up to the dizzy heights of fourth.
Chester made four changes to the side that did beat Hull last Thursday – Ken Sio, Greg Burke, Tyrone McCarthy and Kris Welham could all have played “at a push” – and reaped the rewards.
“It was a scrappy game but I’m really pleased with the effort from the lads,” said Chester, whose side have now won four from their last five outings.
“It is always difficult to back up after a derby game but I’m delighted we’ve come away with two wins over Easter.
“We’re digging deep for each other and I always said if you do that, results will come.
“I’m really proud of the players but I wasn’t happy with the first half; we looked like the team with the shorter turnaround but we put a rocket up a few of them at half-time and they responded.”
The win should really have been more convincing; Josh Mantellato, Super League’s top goalscorer, improved just one of his side’s four tries, so he was relieved when his third try of the season in the 61st minute essentially confirmed victory.
In contrast, Huddersfield have suffered a woeful Easter, seeing their four-game winning run ended by Salford Red Devils on Good Friday before this reverse.
Paul Anderson bemoaned his side’s handling errors last week and there was too many mistakes again here.
Huddersfield were let off when Leroy Cudjoe was penalised for lashing out at the excellent Kevin Larroyer when in possession – always irritating for coaches – but they did not escape when Luke Robinson inexplicably dropped the restart following Joe Wardle’s 30th minute try in front of his own posts.
This time, Rovers pounced, Ben Cockayne leapt highest to palm down Terry Campese’s crossfield kick and give Graeme Horne just enough room to scramble over for their second try of the afternoon.
The first had come inside just three minutes down the same right channel, this time all too easily as Albert Kelly’s fired pass ushered former England centre Darrell Goulding over untouched.
Mantellato could not convert so, when Danny Brough did after his pass had seen Wardle cut a decent line to angle back over on the half-hour, the visitors led 6-4 despite Rovers having so much ball.
Both sides had come close to other scores, Jamie Ellis doing all the hard work dummying his way across only to lose the ball over the line, while Cudjoe and Ellis did well to stop Maurice Blair stepping over before Kieran Dixon was on hand to hack clear Cudjoe’s dinked grubber just before Jermaine McGillvary touched down.
Showing his defensive awareness there, Dixon was also a constant threat for Rovers with ball in hand.
The dynamic full-back certainly showed no signs of fatigue as he continually injected pace into the line and unruffled the Robins’ feathers; the recruit from London Broncos growing with every game. That said, being dragged into touch when returning a kick with just three minutes to go at 18-12 did leave Chester sweating.
Ukuma Ta’ai charged over in the 45th minute, Brough giving the visitors a 12-8 lead. But again, soon after, McGillvary dropped Kelly’s steepling kick to provide position for Kelly to scramble in for his seventh try of the season, Mantellato adding his solitary conversion for the advantage.
When Wardle dropped another ball trying to struggle free, Chester’s men capitalised, if somewhat scrappily as Larroyer’s kick ended up with Mantellato crossing.
He added a penalty in the 79th minute and, so, it didn’t matter that Brough missed the conversion of Aaron Murphy’s try for Huddersfield as they finally found some cohesion with just 15 seconds left.
Shaun Lunt, the Huddersfield hooker on loan at Hull KR, had his quietest game but the fact the club were bottom when he signed underlines their resurgance.
Hull KR: Dixon; Mantellato, Salter, Goulding, Cockyane; Campese, Kelly; Green, Lunt, Allgood, Blair, Horne, Larroyer. Substitutes: Boudebza, Ollett, Donaldson, Walker
Huddersfield Giants: Grix; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy; Brough, Ellis; Crabtree, Wood, Mullally, Ta’ai, Hughes, Bailey. Substitutes: Robinson, Huby, Lawrence, Kopczak.
Referee: P Bentham.