LIFE after Super League for Hull KR started with a predictable win on an emotional afternoon at KCOM Craven Park.
The East Yorkshire club, playing their season opener in the Championship after relegation, eventually proved too strong and dynamic for the newly-formed Bradford Bulls.
They ran in nine tries, on-loan Huddersfield Giants scrum-half Jamie Ellis leading the way with a quality display, scoring one, having a hand in plenty more and also enjoying a 100 per cent record with his goalkicking.
It was certainly a fitting performance on the day Rovers paid their respects to a man who had been part of their very fabric for the last 60 years.
Colin Hutton, their president who died on Friday aged 90, had been coach, chairman and outright icon for the Robins since joining from city rivals Hull in 1957.
It was imperative they won here today, not just for that reason, but also to signal their intent in the second division having been backed to the hilt to make an immediate return.
Tim Sheens, the former Australia coach charged with taking them back to Super League, got his first real insight into what his squad is capable of and was pleased with much of it but, of course, there will be far more sterner tests than this to come.
Desperate Bradford had to scrape a squad together after only being in existence for barely three weeks, emerging from the ashes of the former club that was placed into liquidation following its latest financial collapse.
Furthermore, they started on minus 12 points and their new coach – the much-respected Australian Geoff Toovey – has still yet to receive his working visa although that was not obvious to see as he barked orders alongside fellow coaching staff at the back of the main stand.
They gave debuts to four Leeds Rhinos loanees and, in fairness, competed well initially, trailing only 18-12 just before the break.
There was enough to suggest the relegation many predict won’t be a foregone conclusion.
Rovers, meanwhile were delighted with a crowd of 8,817 – 2,000 more than the Million Pound Game that saw them relegated and bigger than any Super League attendance recorded against Bradford.
They had six former Bradford players in their ranks including Danny Addy and Mitch Clark who left at the end of last season plus Kieren Moss who switched when becoming a free agent following their financial collapse.
Of their own new signings, Andrew Heffernan, the young centre signed from Penrith Panthers, looks an exciting talent while fellow Australian Adam Quinlan, the former St Helens full-back, was classy throughout.
Sheens said: “I’m pleased to get that start and without too much damage either.
“We got a couple of injuries – James Greenwood with a dead leg but he should be okay next week and Thomas Minns with a hamstring that might see him miss one maybe two games.
“We were good in spots, a bit rough in others but overall I’m pretty happy with it.
“I said all along we aren’t going to be slick for a little while and you could see that today but we still got plenty of points.
“I thought all our tries were constructed really well and that’s important for us while I was pleased with how we dealt with going behind early on.
“The tribute for Colin (Hutton) was done really well, too, and to get a crowd of over 8,000 in the Championship is fantastic.”
Bradford, much to the delight of their travelling support, did actually open the scoring, prop Liam Kirk charging onto a short ball inside eight minutes for Oscar Thomas to slot the first of his four conversions.
However, the hosts soon got into the action themselves, Heffernan finishing strongly after some smart build-up play from Ellis, Jordan Abdull and Quinlan.
That midfield trio would go on to cause carnage as did Nick Scruton, the prop who soon after scored two tries in three minutes, blasting away defenders all too easily for Rovers to build up an 18-6 lead.
However, when Bradford finally earned some respite, they hit back, Colton Roche swatting off Addy for on-loan Rhino Lilley to dink a grubber that perfectly sat up for centre Ross Oakes.
Thomas, once more, converted but back-to-back tries from James Donaldson and Thomas Minns just before the break killed off any hopes of a Bradford shock as Rovers went in 30-12 ahead.
They quickly made sure at the start of the second period, Greenwood easing onto another fine Quinlan assist before Ellis got his after the full-back’s classy break.
Ellis was the instigator of the best, though, cruising through the disorganised Bulls defence before chipping ahead for Ryan Shaw who showed great composure to provide Quinlan with a deserved try.
Yet, to their credit, Bradford did not capitulate and scored tries either side of Heffernan’s second, Ethan Ryan intercepting from 90m out for one and then Lilley also intercepting Addy before finding Iliess Macani.
Hull KR: Quinlan; Shaw, Heffernan, Minns, Moss; Abdull, Ellis; Scruton, Lunt, Clark, Blair, Greenwood, Addy. Substitutes: Donaldson, Clarkson, Lawler, Mulhern.
Bradford Bulls: Thomas: Ryan, Mendieka, Oakes, Macani; Pryce, Lilley; Kirk, Lumb, Peltier, Roche, Bentley, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Magrin, Hallas, Jordan-Roberts, Oledzki.
Referee: S Mikalauskas (Leigh).