WHEN Hull FC legend Peter Sterling walked out to the acclaim of the majority of almost 20,000 people, David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ belting out, you sensed this could be a great night.
Spiral passing the match ball to himself as he bowed in front of his adoring public, the former Australia scrum-half - one of the sport’s all-time finest who entranced Black and Whites fans from 1983 to 1985 - looked like he was desperate to stay out on the field and kick-off this derby.
Instead, Sterling - on a whistle-stop tour of his old stomping grounds - had to take to the stands in a pumping KCOM Stadium to watch the latest edition of this fierce rivalry play out.
It did not disappoint; kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes due to an issue with the stadium’s turnstiles but it was worth the wait.
Although Hull KR had started last week with an impressive win over Wakefield Trinity, their lightweight, comparatively inexperienced side were never really given a chance here against star-studded opponents who had vanquished Leeds Rhinos.
Nevertheless, Tony Smith’s men had Hull rattled for long periods of an absorbing contest which did not truly seem settled until Marc Sneyd’s 78th minute drop goal.
In the end, the hosts - with Josh Griffin in fine form once again - deserved the success but how they had to fight for it.
Rovers had taken the lead in the 51st minute with a stunning effort from Ben Crooks, ironically son of watching Hull legend Lee and one of Sterling’s former team-mates in the golden ‘80s.
This is only Round Two but it will still be a contender for Try of the Season come Round 29.
Jamie Ellis started it all on halfway with a shortside move, handing off his own team-mate Elliot Minchella such was the lack of space.
But then Rovers did wonderfully to keep the ball alive via Minchella - twice - the inspirational Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Dean Hadley,all offloading outrageously before shifting to the opposite side.
Then, Harvey Livett’s classy pass fired ex-Hull winger Crooks over in the corner for his fifth try in just two games.
Ellis converted and it was a score worthy of winning any derby.
Hull, though, had other ideas.
After Ellis’ long-range penalty hit an upright, they made the most of the reprieve by scoring at the other end; it was a recurring theme of the night.
Not for the first time centre Griffin, who was Hull’s top metre maker against Leeds, surged clear down the left and held his nerve to find Sneyd in support.
Sneyd improved and did so again after laying on a try for Griffin who angled back in perfectly in the 62nd minute.
Rovers - who visit Leeds on Friday - remained tireless but were never able to muster the requisite chance to recover.
Hull led 12-10 at half-time but only after video referee Chris Kendall rightly ruled out a Ryan Brierley ‘try’ 16 seconds before the break.
Few would have begrudged Rovers an interval lead; they had been full of drive and spirit, fired on by the excellent Livett down the left channel and his captain Kenny-Dowall on the opposite side.
Hull had had all early pressure but, with the visitors well-organised in defence, had nothing to show for it and, instead, KR struck with their first attack.
Inevitably, it was Livett who got over in the 10th minute when the on-loan Warrington Wolves second-row had no right too.
However, the hosts seemed taken aback by his leg drive as he forced his way over from 10m out.
It did not take too long for Lee Radford’s side to respond, Jake Connor having acres of room to slip through untouched off Sneyd’s pass after a poor defensive misread from Brierely.
Sneyd converted but the breakthrough did not deter Rovers who continually forced pressure.
There was no better than when Ellis’ towering kick was fielded by Ratu Naulago, only for the Hull winger to be bundled into touch near his own line by a swarming defence.
That effort was rewarded as Adam Quinlan dummied over for Rovers’ second try in the resulting set, Ellis improving from the sideline.
They looked like adding a third just after the hour mark but Hull’s Josh Jones’ intercepted Jez Litten’s pass under the shadow of his own posts and that, too, proved crucial.
The Great Britain back-row duly earned a penalty and Radford’s side marched downfield to finish with a try for Danny Houghton, the captain who marked his 350th game in the Black and White by latching onto Sneyd’s clever slided grubber.
Sneyd, of course, converted and it was just enough to see them into the break in front.
Granted, they needed Griffin to get them over by the end but, 100 per cent start in tact, they will relish welcoming champions St Helens here next Sunday.
Hull FC: Shaul; Naulago, Tuimavave, Griffin, Swift; Connor, Sneyd; Taylor, Houghton, Sao, Jones, Lane, Savelio. Substitutes: Satae, Johnstone, Bowden, Fonua.
Hull KR: Quinlan; Minikin, Kenny-Dowall, Linnett, Crooks; Ellis, Brierley; Mulhern, Litten, Murray, Livett, Storton, Lawler. Substitutes: Hadley, Trout, Maher, Minchella.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham)