GIVEN Hull KR were wearing Papua New Guinea colours last night, the 226th such encounter with Hull FC did not initially look like a derby.
However, by the end, there was no mistaking it certainly was as Hull, shrugging off the loss of their two most experienced players, not only confirmed their own place in the Super 8s but almost certainly ended mistake-ridden Rovers’ hopes of making that top end, too.
When they lost Leon Pryce, the ex-Great Britain stand-off making his 500th career appearance, to a shoulder injury after just nine minutes, Hull’s task had suddenly looked sizeable.
Therefore, when he was joined before half-time on the sidelines by his former Lions team-mate Gareth Ellis, the luckless Hull captain who snapped his Achilles tendon when innocuously stood in the defensive line and will not play again until 2016, Hull KR looked odds-on to push home.
But these derbies are traditionally curious affairs and this was no different.
Hull, with wingers Tom Lineham and Steve Michaels each scoring a brace of tries, showed a ruthless efficiency to capitalise on their rivals’ growing errors, Rovers’ own wideman Ken Sio contributing two uncharacteristic mistakes that led to scores.
There was a greater urgency and purpose about Lee Radford’s side, who backed up their “humiliating” Magic Weekend defeat of Rovers with another performance full of character in their neighbours’ own backyard to secure eighth spot at least.
It was a third successive win and, though they have to push on without talisman Ellis and possibly Pryce, too, they will have decent confidence going into those Super 8s after next Thursday’s last game with Wigan.
Hull KR, though, suffered a third straight defeat and, barring an amazing chain of results over the next eight days, are destined for the Qualifiers, facing the Championship’s leading sides and, ultimately, the risk of relegation.
When Josh Mantellato sailed the kick-off out on the full, something Maurice Blair would do soon after in general play, you sensed Rovers were the far nervier of the two sides.
However, after defending those initial errors – Hull winger Fetuli Talanoa failing to ground after Kieran Dixon misjudged another kick – it was the home side who took the lead.
Shaun Lunt, the on-loan Huddersfield Giants hooker who really makes them tick, dummied his way over from acting-half far too easily with Pryce, elsewhere in the line, manfully still trying to defend with one arm.
Mantellato added the first of his two conversions but Hull soon responded.
Rovers were seething when Liam Watts, the prop, launched into Albert Kelly after a kick apparently leading with a shoulder. There was no penalty and, instead, in the next possession, the visitors crossed with a sublime finish from Michaels, who spectacularly collected Marc Sneyd’s fired grubber with just one hand while in midflight dive.
There were few other opportunities in the first half, but Rovers blew one when Graeme Horne, the former Hull second-row who captained their rivals last night with Tyrone McCarthy starting on the bench, badly executed a pass when Mantellato was waiting to finish.
Mantellato did score, however, and convert in the 26th minute when Kris Welham did brilliantly to win Kelly’s high kick and then flick out a pass to the Italian international as he fell to the ground.
Lunt sent Adam Walker surging through the middle in a neat exchange but the only finish was a poor Kelly kick and, from there, Radford’s side went up the other end to reply via Lineham although Jordan Rankin’s decisive pass was clearly forward.
Ellis departed soon after but it did not deter Hull who, having seen Sio denied by a forward pass, capitalised when the Rovers winger then cheaply coughed up possession.
There was just 67 seconds of the half remaining when Lineham twisted over for his 19th try of the year, though the attempt at a tackle from Dixon was awful, something the slight full-back would repeat again and again in the second period.
Sneyd converted for a 16-12 interval lead and, in truth, his side controlled most of the second period once Michaels had pinched his second try in the 54th minute after Sio lost possession again coming away from his own line, Sneyd improving.
All the pre-match talk was whether Kelly, Rovers’ dazzling Australian half-back, would be fit to feature after injuring his knee at Salford on Sunday.
He was but he never had the desired impact on his side and, instead, it was Sneyd, making his 100th career appearance, and Jordan Abdull, the 19-year-old who gave a mature performance belying his age when replacing Pryce, who dictated.
Lacklustre Rovers, who do have a Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington to look forward to, could certainly have done with the steel of Stanley Gene, their legendary former Papuan whose charity foundation will benefit from the club’s specially-designed shirts last night.
Hull KR: Dixon; Mantellato, Welham, Salter, Sio; Blair, Kelly; Tilse, Lunt, Puletua, Larroyer, Horne, Burke. Substitutes: McCarthy, Donaldson, Cockayne, Walker.
Hull FC: Rankin; Lineham, Talanoa, Logan, Michaels; Pryce, Sneyd; Bowden, Houghton, Watts, Ellis, Minichiello, Westerman. Substitutes: Abdull, Whiting, Thompson, Green.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Mirfield).