Hull KR battle but fail to snatch win from Saints’ grasp

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St Helens produced a late flourish to snatch victory at home to Hull KR in game they looked like throwing away.

Late tries from Anthony Laffranchi and Tony Puletua earned Saints the spoils to push them up to third in the Super League table. But it looked like they were going to squander a 26-point lead at one stage.

Saints raced into a 26-0 lead thanks to braces from Paul Wellens and Josh Jones, but they were far from home and dry.

Scott Taylor and Sam Latus both scored twice as Hull KR, who trailed by 10 points at the break, went in front by two points, but Saints responded late on to claim victory.

Hull KR’s bus broke down, causing them to arrive late at Langtree Park and they were slow out of the blocks as, after a penalty, scrum-half Jonny Lomax ghosted through to plant the ball between the posts.

Tommy Makinson slotted the extras and with two fine long-range kicks from Lee Gaskell, Saints continued to press.

The pressure told when Lomax held the ball up well for the supporting Wellens to go over for a try.

Hull KR, off the back of three successive penalties, had a short spell of pressure on the Saints’ line, but that came to nothing with Saints countering ruthlessly.

Gaskell’s boot was again profitable with the young stand-off’s grubber kick bouncing kindly into the grateful arms of Wellens, who was left with the formality of picking up and touching down. Makinson’s goal made it 16 points after as many minutes.

Another fine attacking kick, this time from Jon Wilkin, was collected and touched down by teenage centre Jones, Makinson again slotting the conversion.

Rovers then had a spell of pressure, but Constantine Mika’s haste to offload backfired when Tony Puletua picked up to spark a length of the field move.

The New Zealander ate up the early yards before offloading to compatriot Francis Meli, who took play upfield before supplying the scoring pass for Jones. But Rovers roared back with three tries in the last 10 minutes of the half.

A close-range try from Taylor started the ball rolling, with Michael Dobson adding the extras.

A lost ball from Saints’ Chris Flannery was then swiftly punished with Graeme Horne sending Latus in at the corner.

On the stroke of half-time Scott Murrell and Ben Galea combined to send Latus in for his second try, with Dobson’s goal making it 26-16 at the break.

Taylor cashed in a spilled Meli ball to go in for his second try, goaled by Dobson.

Rovers hit the front for the first time when Josh Hodgson touched down Dobson’s grubber kick, the latter’s conversion putting the visitors two points in front.

But eight minutes from time, on the back of a penalty and a six again, Anthony Laffranchi ran a good line to crash through from close range.

Makinson missed the easy conversion to add to the tension.

Then late in the game Meli broke down the wing and Puletua forced his way over to make sure of victory.

St Helens: Wellens, Makinson, Shenton, J Jones, Meli, Gaskell, Lomax, Perry, Roby, Laffranchi, Puletua, Soliola, Wilkin. Substitutes: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Flannery, Flanagan, Clough.

Hull KR: McDonnell, Hall, Webster, Horne, Latus, Green, Dobson, Clinton, J. Hodgson, O’Hara, Mika, Galea, Netherton. Substitutes: Taylor, Withers, Murrell, Paea.

Referee: T Alibert (Toulouse).