HULL KR’S SUPER League safety is essentially secured today after Kieran Dixon scored four tries to secure a fifth straight Qualifiers win.
Chris Chester’s side maintained their 100 per cent record with a victory over Bradford Bulls that was even more convincing than the final scoreline suggests.
The outclassed Championship visitors - missing Matty Blythe and Jake Mullaney through illness but also made to pay for two costly sin-binnings - were thankful Josh Mantellato, KR’s usually prolific goalkicker, secured just three goals from nine conversion attempts.
It mattered little in the end as the Italian winger’s two first-half tries allied to efforts from Dixon (4), Dane Chisholm, Ken Sio, Kris Welham - the centre’s 100th try for the East Yorkshire club - and Graeme Horne ensured the beaten Challenge Cup finalists effectively nailed down their top-flight place for 2016 with two rounds still to go.
Ruined Bradford, meanwhile, know they now realistically have to win at Championship frontrunners Leigh Centurions in a week’s time to earn a place in the fourth versus fifth Million Pound Game that decides the final promotion berth.
They were just 12-4 down at the break this afternoon but, like against Super League Widnes Vikings last Sunday, fell away badly in the second period.
Indeed, Jimmy Lowes’ side have conceded 78 second half points in the last two games alone and not scored one.
Furthermore, they were only so close here due to Mantellato’s inaccuracy with the boot, missing all three conversion attempts to each of his side’s three first half tries.
Admittedly, there were all difficult efforts from touchlines but it meant the visitors, who wasted plenty of possession themselves with poor handling, were still in touch.
Bulls had also witnessed that couple of totally needless yellow cards, too.
Danny Williams was off after just seven minutes when the winger prevented Dixon from retrieving the ball for a quick 20m retstart even though his colleagues were already well-set defensively.
Dixon was at the heart of the second sin-binning, too, in the 39th minute.
Epalahame Lauaki had done all the hard work, the Tongan prop driving the Hull KR winger back 10m in a dominant tackle, but then wasted it all by stupidly ragging his opponent’s face.
The first time they were down to 12 men, Lowes’ side conceded when stand-in full-back James Mendieka fumbled a kick and Chisholm’s looping pass found Mantellato for the Italian international’s 22nd try of the year.
Some lovely swift hands down the short side from Adrian Purtell and Danny Addy, however, saw Mendieka go over in the corner in the 24th minuute and atone for that earlier error.
Rovers replied when Mantellato added his second seven minutes later following a smart blindside move of their own from a tap penalty and Dixon added their third try in the next set after Bradford’s left edge and Mendieka were exploited once more.
After another Mendieka knock-on Dixon added his second just three minutes into the second period when the visitors were still minus Lauaki but Mantellato again proved unsuccessful with his kick.
In the next set, Kiwi stand-off Chisholm broke in midfield before embarrassing Mendieka further by rounding the former Featherstone Rovers man far too easily with a change of pace, Mantellato rejoicing as the conversion finally came in front of the posts.
Mendieka, brought in at full-back for the dropped James Clare, did endure a nightmare afternoon.
Harry Siejka almost edged over for Bradford but was held up over the line and then Matt Ryan wasted a good break from Williams.
Instead, full-back Sio added Hull KR’s sixth try in the 57th minute, Mantellato curling in one from wide out at last, and then Welham broke from 50m out in the next set to dummy past the hapless Mendieka.
When Bradford let Maurice Blair’s hoisted kick bounce, Rovers spread the ball wide to Dixon again who grubbered infield and Matty Marsh, with remarkable skill, palmed it back before rolling dead, for Horne to touch down.
Former Hull KR winger Omari Caro dropped another high kick to gift Rovers more possession and furnish Dixon with his hat-trick, the winger adding his fourth after the hooter and duly slotting the touchline kick himself, too.
Hull KR: Sio; Dixon, Horne, Welham, Mantellato; Chisholm, Marsh; Allgood, Puletua, Blair, McCarthy, Donaldson. Substitutes: Tilse, Boudebza, Burke, Green.
Bradford Bulls: Mendieka; Caro, Nielsen, Walker, Williams; Purtell, Addy; Clough, O’Brien, Sidlow, Olbison, Ryan, Pitts. Substitutes: Siejka, Lauaki, Crossley, Ferguson.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield)