Super sub Shaun Lunt scored two tries as Hull KR took a step towards a Super League return with a dramatic 20-16 win at Leigh Centurions in the Qualifiers.
Rovers hit back from 6-0 and 10-6 down to lead by four points in the second half, but It looked like they would go away empty handed when Leigh regained the advantage with 12 minutes left.
They were not to be denied though and Lunt’s second try five minutes from time - and a fourth goal from Jamie Ellis - sealed a vital win for the Championship leaders.
It was a deserved victory for the Championship leaders, who defended magnificently and took their limited chances when they came.
Leigh went ahead after 12 minutes through stand-off Daniel Mortimer.
He was on Harrison Hansen’s shoulder to take the final pass after the prop had been sent into space by Josh Drinkwater, who added the extras.
Mortimer’s father Peter had a season with Hull KR in the 1980s and the Aussie was close to joining the Robins last year, but the then-Gold Coast play-maker opted to join Cronulla Sharks instead.
Maurice Blair twice made vital tackles to protect Rovers’ line, keeping Matthew Fleming and Glenn Stewart out, before the second tier side levelled on 30 minutes.
They had lacked ideas and pace on attack, though Justin Carney slid into touch just short and Mose Masoe almost got over from a rampaging run. But Lunt caught Leigh’s defence napping when he darted right from acting-half, then stepped back the other way and got over the top of Drinkwater to touch down.
Ellis’ goal levelled the scores, but Leigh went in at the break two points through a Drinkwater penalty goal in the 40th minute.
Rovers had a chance at the start of the second half following a good run by Andrew Heffernan, which led to a penalty close to Leigh’s line, but Fleming and Matty Dawson combined to keep Blair out.
Drinkwater extended the Super League team’s lead with a penalty on 51 minutes, but Rovers were in front before the hour. Matty Marsh won a penalty after a nice move involving Carney, Blair and Kieren Moss.
On the final tackle Ellis kicked to Rovers’ right and Ryan Shaw made the catch and managed to get the ball down before being shoved into touch by Adam Higson.
That levelled the scores and Ellis landed a superb conversion from the touchline before extending Hull KR’s lead to four points with a penalty in the 66th minute after Moss had been obstructed following a kick from the scrum-half.
But almost immediately James Greenwood was penalised for holding down and in the set from the penalty Leigh went back in front when Atelea Vea crashed over from a short pass by Drinkwater, who also added the extras.
Vea almost added another try, but was brilliantly tackled just short by Carney and that proved a crucial moment in the game.
Shaw was a metre away from getting Rovers on level terms with five minutes left, then Ellis’ kick forced a knock-on on Leigh’s line and Lunt twisted over in the resulting set to give Ellis a simple conversion.
Leigh tried to pull the game from the fire in the final moments, with a scrum and two penalties on Rovers’ line. Drinkwater was held up over the whitewash and the Robins hung on.