THREE more wins should be enough to seal Hull KR’s return to Super League after Shaun Lunt’s brace of tries turned the tables on Leigh Centurions.
Leigh replaced Hull KR in the top-flight a year ago, but the positions could be reversed next month.
Ten points is the accepted target for a top-three place in the Qualifiers and automatic entry to Super League without having to go through the lottery of the million pound game.
Rovers have won their opening two matches and face Championship opposition in their next couple, before what looks set to be a crunch home game against Widnes Vikings in round five.
Lunt, who started on the bench, admitted Saturday’s 20-16 success at Leigh was “pleasing”, but stressed: “It is only one win.”
He said: “It’s our second win in the series, but they count for nothing if we don’t go on and win the other five.
“We are not getting carried away; it was a fantastic win, a really hard-fought victory and we are buzzing, but at the same time we have got to be realistic, we realise there’s still another five very hard games to play.”
Of his own contribution, Lunt added: “They were only from two or three metres out, but they helped the team and it is nice to score every now and again, but I couldn’t care less if I never scored another try as long as we win. That’s all I am bothered about.”
After waiting until the 73rd minute for their winning try in round one against Halifax, Rovers left it even later.
There were five minutes remaining when Lunt twisted over from acting-half for his second touchdown to level the scores and allow Jamie Ellis to win it with his third conversion.
Video judge James Child quickly confirmed the grounding, but was not allowed to look at Nick Scruton’s play-the-ball.
That was fortunate for Hull KR as it was a mess and referee Jack Smith should have awarded a penalty or knock-on.
Leigh coach Neil Jukes was upset with the officials, but has problems closer to home. It was Leigh’s second defeat by Hull KR this year, after a fifth round Challenge Cup loss and they managed only two tries against lower division opposition despite long spells of pressure.
The Super League side, who have announced former St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham as their head of rugby until the end of the season, led 6-0, 10-6 and 16-14 and should have been good enough to hold on.
They went ahead through a stylish try from Daniel Mortimer, a former Hull KR target whose father Peter played for the Robins in the 1980s, which Josh Drinkwater converted.
Lunt’s first try levelled the scores, but Drinkwater booted penalty goals either side of half-time. Rovers hit the front through Ryan Shaw’s acrobatic converted touchdown from a kick by Ellis who then added a penalty.
But Atelea Vea went over for Leigh with 12 minutes left and they would probably have won but for a superb try-saving tackle by Justin Carney on the same player moments later.
It was a better win for Rovers than performance. Their defence was excellent all afternoon and Ellis kicked well, but they lacked direction and pace on attack and Lunt was the difference between the sides.
Tim Sheens, Hull KR’s coach, described the victory as “another foot in the door”.
He said: “Two out of two, one against a Super League side, certainly helps. It was a great effort from everyone. We were patient and we just tried to hang in there.
“They completed at a very high rate and they really battered us in the middle. We hung on and hung on and just persevered. I suppose we got lucky with the play-the-ball on the tryline for Lunty’s last try.”
Leigh Centurions: McNally, Dawson, Fleming, Langi, Higson, Mortimer, Drinkwater, Hansen, Higham, Maria, Vea, Paterson, Burr. Substitutes: Hood, Richards, Tickle, Stewart.
Hull KR: Moss, Carney, Blair, Heffernan, Shaw, Marsh, Ellis, Scruton, Lawler, Jewitt, Addy, Clarkson, Kavanagh. Substitutes: Lunt, Greenwood, Atkin. Masoe.
Referee: J Smith (Warrington).