Albert Kelly scored two sensational 90-metre solo tries to help Hull KR shatter St Helens’ 100 per cent record in Super League.
The Australian half-back twice demonstrated exceptional pace to punish errors by the reigning champions to put the Robins on their way to a 24-22 win and leave Saints still looking for a first victory at Craven Park since 2008.
Rovers, who claimed the scalp of Wigan last month, were good value for a third successive home win that rounded off a good day for the club after they earlier announced the notable acquisition of Jamie Peacock as football manager for 2016.
St Helens, who trailed 24-12 with with five minutes to go, could have snatched a point had former Hull KR co-captain Travis Burns been able to convert Jordan Turner’s last-minute try but it would have been tough on the impressive Robins.
Saints stay top of the table but they were a shadow of the side that beat Warrington a week earlier and coach Keiron Cunningham must now pick them up for their Good Friday derby at the DW Stadium.
The champions were unfortunate to lose England hooker James Roby to injury but they made an ideal start when skipper Jon Wilkin, who began his professional career at Craven Park, re-gathered his own grubber to touch down and a goal from Burns made it 6-0.
It was all Saints for the opening quarter but Roby was held up over the line and Kelly twice punished their casual play to put his side in front. The former Gold Coast Titans scrum-half pounced on Wilkin’s kick for his first long-range try and then picked off Burns’ pass to outsprint the Saints cover for his second.
Josh Mantellato converted both to put the Robins into a 12-6 lead but the champions were back level when the ball was fed back from Wilkin’s hoisted kick and Atelea Vea got Tom Makinson over at the corner. Burns landed the difficult conversion but Saints were forced to re-organise their team when Roby was forced from the field after taking a head knock.
Lance Hohaia demonstrated his versatility by switching from full-back, where he began as third choice in the absence of Jonny Lomax and Paul Wellens, to hooker, with Makinson going to full-back.
When St Helens winger Adam Swift again demonstrated his fallibility under the high ball his opposite number Ken Sio struck with the home side’s third try two minutes before the break.
Kelly could have doubled his try tally following breaks by Lunt and Kris Welham but Rovers could not apply the finishing touches, and they had to settle for two successful Mantellato penalties to edge them 20-12 ahead.
Hull KR thought they had sealed it when Kieran Dixon went over for a fourth try but Saints staged a tremendous late fightback which caused some anxiety for Chris Chester’s men.
Hull K R: Dixon, Mantellato, Welham, Goulding, Sio, Campese, Kelly, Walker, Lunt, Green, Horne, McCarthy, Blair. Substitutes: Boudebza, Donaldson, Larroyer, Ollett.
St Helens: Hohaia, Makinson, Turner, Dawson, Swift, Burns, Wilkin, Amor, Roby, Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Vea, Flanagan. Substitutes: Jones, Masoe, Thompson, Richards.
Referee: James Child (RFL).