IN sport everyone gets knocked down now and again; it’s the getting back up again that counts.
Eight days after a 50-0 trouncing by Leeds Rhinos at Wembley, which included an error-ridden individual performance from full-back Kieran Dixon, Hull KR underlined the real spirit in their camp with a dramatic 20-18 home win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Rovers hit back from 12-0 down after 22 minutes and Dixon – named at full-back, but operating largely on the right wing – played a crucial role in their victory, scoring a brace of tries, coping well under the high ball and contributing several important tackles.
“I thought it was a great comeback from everybody,” coach Chris Chester reflected afterwards.
“Obviously Kieran copped a bit of stick from people outside the dressing room, but we know what a special talent he is.
“He played very well, scored a couple of tries and he is a confidence kid. I thought it was important I got him back out there as soon as possible. He did himself proud.”
Hull KR were clearly suffering from a Challenge Cup final hangover in the opening stages. Chester – who feels Rovers need one more win in the Qualifiers to be certain of retaining their Super League status – added: “It is never easy backing up after a Wembley performance.
“The boys were really drained out there and in the dressing room. We made it hard work, we came up with some silly errors and I thought Wakefield were certainly the better team for the first 25-30 minutes.
“They seemed to run harder and tackle harder, but we changed a few things around and I thought our bench made a big difference, James Donaldson especially.
“They gave us all a big lift and we fought our way back. If they [Wakefield] had kicked their goals, who knows what would have happened?
“But credit my boys, they came back. There’s a lot of spirit in this group and it showed out there.”
Wakefield should have been much further than 12-10 ahead at half-time, after scoring three tries inside the opening 22 minutes.
Crucially, Lee Smith was off target with the first two conversion attempts and Jordan Tansey struck a post with the third.
The tries which got Rovers back in the game both came out of nothing.
After half an hour, Josh Mantellato charged down Tim Smith’s kick inside his own half and raced clear for the Robins’ first score in 110 minutes of rugby.
Dixon converted and then scored the hosts’ second touchdown, six minutes later. Dane Chisholm, boxed in on the final tackle, chipped over the defence, regathered and supplied Tyrone McCarthy, whose pass was finished by Dixon at the corner.
Wakefield could have been out of sight by that stage, having led from the sixth minute when Kevin Locke went over from Tim Smith’s pass.
Lee Smith added a second following good play by his namesake and then Jacob Miller and Tansey carved out another for Locke, who showed his class in his first appearance since suffering a torn pectoral muscle two months ago.
Wakefield created more chances at the start of the second half, but then mistakes crept in. Rovers rode the storm and hit back with two tries in four minutes in the closing stages. Mantellato’s pass was finished by Dixon and then Shaun Lunt went over from acting-half, for a try which should have been defended and which was improved by Mantallato.
Lee Smith grabbed his second touchdown with five minutes left and landed a magnificent touchline goal, but Wakefield could not find another way through, despite strong late pressure.
“We brought about our own demise with a very poor last play in attack and a very poor last play in defence in the first half,” Wakefield coach Brian Smith said. “We pretty much dominated most of the rest of it, but that gave them a breath and a bit of interest and a reason to come back.”
Smith felt Locke’s return was a positive for Wakefield, but he admitted poor kicking – from usually reliable marksmen – was costly.
“He was great to start with, but he quickly ran out of puff,” Smith said of the former New Zealand Test player. “He got a few whacks and solid hits on him. I’ll be looking for the same sort of thing from him in the next game and hopefully more of it and hopefully more in the second half.”
Of the missed kicks, Smith said: “That was a vital factor. We think we’ve got two or three of the best goal kickers around. Two of them had an off day.”
Hull KR: Dixon, Sio, Horne, Welham, Mantellato, Marsh, Chisholm, Adam Walter, Lunt, Allgood, Blair, Burke, McCarthy. Substitutes: Green, Boudebza, Donaldson, Greenwood.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Locke, L Smith, Tupou, Lyne, Tansey, Miller, T Smith., Anthony Walker, Washbrook, Anderson, Lauitiiti, Ashurst, Simon. Substitutes: Godinet, Arundel, Scruton, Mullally.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).