IT WAS rarely pretty and far too tense for comfort but Hull KR held on to secure a win that nudges them ever closer to Super League safety.
Tim Sheens’ side seemed in complete control when leading 20-6 tonight against Championship opponents London Broncos at half-time.
However, their spirited rivals - coached by ex-Robins prop Danny Ward - gave them a real scare when forcing their way back to 20-18 with 16 minutes still to go.
A second try from Michael Channing, the former Castleford Tigers winger, had the Robins worried but recalled James Donaldson came up with a massive play in the next set to quell the visitors’ momentum.
The ex-Bradford Bulls forward’s tackle forced an error from London as they came away from their own line and, soon after, James Greenwood barged over for his second try, Chris Atkin converting to give the hosts some much-need breathing space.
Junior Vaivai’s try late on made sure and Rovers now have four wins from their five Qualifiers games, staying in third but now joint-top with Salford Red Devils and Leeds Rhinos.
Elsewhere, Toronto Wolfpack beat Toulouse 13-12 in Canada this evening to stay in the hunt for the top-three automatic Super League spots; they trail those in front by just two points.
Hull KR head to France to face Toulouse on Saturday knowing another win should confirm their place in the top-flight for 2019.
At 18-6 up inside just 25 minutes, it looked like it could be simple enough for them this evening despite missing six players from the squad that beat Halifax on Sunday.
Adam Quinlan, Justin Carney and Lee Jewitt have all been ruled out for the rest of the season while Mose Masoe and Maurice Blair also dropped out.
Furthermore, veteran stand-off Danny McGuire suffered an injury in their final practice session to miss the cut, too.
However, Atkin excelled in the halves and they were 20-6 up at the interval, never really in trouble despite being reduced to 12 men inside the opening five minutes.
It was a cheap and needless yellow card to concede, fit-again centre Ben Crooks the offender for kicking the ball away after colleague Todd Carney’s attacking grubber rolled dead.
Nevertheless, his side still scored first when Greenwood rolled out of a tackle from close range for Atkin to convert although - shortly before Crooks’ return - that was cancelled out by a soft London try.
Three dozing Rovers defenders all stood on and watched as Channing emerged to pounce on Jarrod Sammut’s unthreatening grubber, Sammut improving.
Atkin slotted a penalty after Eddie Battye’s high tackle on Joel Tomkins before scoring a try of his own.
It was a classy effort, started and finished by the scrum-half as he dinked in a kick from halfway that Vaivai did brilliantly to collect and then return with a sublime pass to Atkin.
Danny Tickle, on from the bench,took over goalkicking duties but bizarrely missed the simple conversion effort.
The veteran back-row was on target, however, when hooker Tommy Lee scored Rovers’ third try in the 25th minute following more sterling work from his forwards.
London’s hopes of gaining another Super League scalp - they won at Widnes Vikings in their Qualifiers opener - were not aided by their own inability to force any pressure.
They threw one forward pass on halfway, then saw ex-Hull FC player James Cunningham softly spill another before French hooker Eloi Pelissier charged out of the defensive line to concede another penalty.
Still, they were competitive enough for Atkin to feel the need to attempt a drop goal as early as the 34th minute - he scuffed it wide - and also prised Rovers open when Sadiq Adebiyi burst through, only for the final pass to got directly to Robins captain Shaun Lunt.
London forward Will Lovell was fortunate to not be sin-binned himself with a late, shoulder charge on Atkin after the England Knights hopeful had kicked downfield, Tickle accepting the two points just before the break.
Ironically, after Tickle was held up over the goalline at the start of the second period, it was Lovell who got the visitors right back in contention.
He made the most of a rare Rovers defensive lapse in the 55th minute for Sammut to make it 20-12.
Greenwood then thought he was pulled back as he tried to latch onto Carney’s grubber but officials waved play on and, instead, London grew in confidence.
They pressed hard to make further inroads and the hosts did, at times, look unnerved, particularly as their own discipline waned.
The loss of Cunningham to injury just after the hour mark dented London’s hopes but Channing, with Sammut improving, got them in touch before Donaldson came up with that significant play.
Hull KR: Hall; Salter, Crooks, Vaivai, Oakes; T Carney, Atkin; Scruton, Lee, Mulhern, Greenwood, Tomkins, Clarkson. Substitutes: Lunt, Kavanagh, Donaldson, Tickle.
London Broncos: Walker; Channing, Hellewell, Kear, Williams; Cunningham, Sammut; Ioane, Davis, Evans, Pitts, Hindmarsh, Battye. Substitutes: Pelissier, Gee, Adebiyi, Lovell.
Referee: Greg Dolan (Batley)