HULL KR captain Terry Campese made a timely return to action to guide his relegation-threatened side to a potentially crucial win at London Broncos.
All the pre-match talk was about the club’s head of rugby Jamie Peacock, the 38 year-old former prop, and his intention to come out of retirement to aid James Webster’s depleted squad.
The ex-Great Britain captain did just that, playing for the first time since helping Leeds Rhinos win the Grand Final last October and producing two spells off the bench, including a strong stint at the start of the second period.
However, it was Campese, the Australian stand-off inititally ruled out for the season when injurying his hamstring again in June, who made the real difference.
With Maurice Blair having headed back to Australia for his brother’s funeral, and fellow half-back Albert Kelly still suspended for internal disciplanry matters, Rovers desperately needed some craft and the 32-year-old certainly delivered.
Campese had only played five times previoiusly this campaign having seen his debut year last season also ravaged by injuries.
But his class and guile are undoubted. If only Rovers - who lost to Championship and now newly-promoted Leigh Centurions last week - had seen him fit all season, they would never have been in this predicament.
The former New South Wales State of Origin star was at the heart of most of their 10 tries as Rovers, with centre Thomas Minns scoring a hat-trick and young hooker Will Jubb also crossing on debut, bolstered their hopes of survival.
Importantly, they moved into the crucial third place above Huddersfield Giants on points difference so are now in pole position
Hull KR - who hope to win their last two games to secure a 2017 Super League place - raced into a 24-0 lead inside just 13 minutes against their Championship opponents.
It seemed they were intent on making sure of victory before needing to call upon Peacock from the bench.
Campese was immediately to the fore with a pinpoint crossfield kick seeing Minns leaping to score inside just two minutes.
The duo replicated that with a mirror image effort four minutes later and, with London conceding soft penalties, there was no let up.
Even when passes went to ground, as Matty Marsh’s did, things went their way, Rovers mopping up for Josh Mantellato to eventually put Ben Cockayne over in the 11th minute.
The rampant visitors surged in in the next set, too, Shaun Lunt’s long pass exposing a rushingh London defender to allow Campese to break from inside his own 20.
The veteran was never going to have the legs to go all the way and his return pass to Shaun Lunt was a little early so the ex-England hooker was hauled in before the try-line.
However, Webster’s side worked the ball wide well for Kieran Dixon, the former Broncos winger, to finish in the corner, Mantellato maintaining his 100 per cent record with the boot.
Rovers, then, should have turned the screw but they proved lax and their opponents grasped the lifeline.
For all they were in fine fettle and adventurous, full-back Cockayne, impressive under the high ball, had no need to pass to Dixon when taking another kick 10m from his own line.
But he did and his winger, never the most confident of operators, spilled under pressure.
From there, Campese had to scramble to force Jamie Soward’s neat grubber dead but there was no escape from the drop-out, Broncos full-back Alex Walker scoring on 25 minutes after a brilliant flick pass from prop Mark Ioane.
When Lunt conceded a soft penalty soon after, another dinked Soward grubber saw ex-Hull FC hooker James Cunningham slide over between the posts for Soward’s second conversion to make it 24-12.
Suddenly, Rovers looked jaded especially as Broncos’ offload game to the fore and then as Campese’s downfield kick went out on the full.
They were glad to see half-time arrive and that certainly sorted them out.
Crucially, Webster’s side re-appeared to cross first in the second period, keeping the ball alive rather fortuitously for James Greenwood to score two minutes in.
It wasn’t long before Marsh, the young scrum-half who gets better with each game, stepped through for a nice solo score, Mantellato stretching the scoreline to 34-18.
However, moments after Peacock left the field in the 53rd minute - he came on after 28 - following his strongest drive, Will Barthau scrambled over for the hosts and Soward added the extras.
But Rovers quickly ended any hopes of a Broncos comeback with back-to-back tries around the hour mark.
First, Campese slipped Adam Walker through with a neat pass for James Donaldson to score and, in the next set, Lunt made one of his trademark breaks for Marsh to finish off his second.
Then, Will Jubb, the teenage hooker, scored a try just moments after coming on for his debut, capitalising after Barthau spilled Marsh’s high kick.
Minns, fittingly, finished off with a hat-trick after Cockayne’s lovely slip pass, Mantellato finishing with nine goals.
They head to winless Featherstone Rovers next Sunday before Huddersfield Giants, their rivals for third spot along with Salford, arrive on the last day.
London Broncos: Alex Walker; Williams, Hellewell, Kear, Macani; Barthau, Soward; Slyney, Cunningham, Ioane, Harrison, Garside, Bussey. Substitutes: Ackers, Thackray, Magrin, Bussey.
Hull KR: Cockayne; Dixon, Minns, Thornley, Mantellato; Campese, Marsh; Tilse, Lunt, Allgood, Clarkson, Greenwood, Donaldson. Substitutes: Larroyer, Peacock, Adam Walker, Jubb.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington)