Hull Kingston Rovers’ Ben Crooks issues Super League warning
They defied the odds to win 18-8 on Friday night, the first time the Robins had won at DW Stadium since 2009.
It was also the first time Wigan had lost at home in two years but, most impressively of all, the East Yorkshire club kept their rivals pointless in the first half even when prop George King was sin-binned.
Moreover, Rovers, who finished bottom last term, were missing both their first-choice half-backs but produced a brilliant display, especially defensively, to secure a third straight victory.
Asked where it ranked in terms of wins, winger Crooks told The Yorkshire Post: “It was right up there.
“It was one we were all really proud of and we were saying afterwards how we felt that was a proper win. It was a top-four performance and that’s something we’re obviously striving for.
“The way we defended and then counter-attacked to score in that first half just typified what we’re all about this year and what we’re aiming for.
“Come the end, I don’t think you could find a happier dressing room this week.”
Rovers’ resilience was remarkable as they consistently closed down a Wigan side featuring the likes of former Man of Steel Jackson Hastings and England second-rows Liam Farrell and John Bateman.
Crooks, who scored a try and kicked the first of his three goals as they claimed a 6-0 interval lead, said: “It was amazing.
“The team ethos we’ve got at the minute for working for each other is right up there.
“To lose a man, especially against a quality side like Wigan, and keep them scoreless in that period, it was just fantastic.
“We’ve set a standard for ourselves now and put down a marker.
“We’ve sent a message out there that it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’re coming for them. It’s up to us to keep to those standards now.”
Rovers had already lost stand-off Rowan Milnes beforehand as he was one of four players who needed to stand down after the club reported one positive Covid test last week.
On Saturday, they also revealed a second player had tested positive.
However, they also saw scrum-half Jordan Abdull – who leads the Man of Steel leaderboard this term – fail to overcome a concussion so he, too, missed the trip to Wigan.
Kiwi centre Brad Takariangi switched to the halves and young Mikey Lewis – back from a loan spell at York City Knights – produced some telling moments in a new-look partnership.
Crooks said: “It was tough losing Abbo. We lost Rowan first due to Covid reasons and then Abbo.
“But Brad Takarangi had done a lot of work in pre-season at half-back and everyone knows the skills Mikey Lewis has got and the player he is going to become. We knew, regardless of who was missing, that we could do it because of the quality that was remaining.”
Former Castleford Tigers player Crooks, who turned 28 on Tuesday, took on kicking duties in Abdull’s absence.
“It was 2013/2014 when I was last a regular kicker,” he said, referring to his days at Hull FC.
“I kicked one goal from one attempt at Cas’ so I’ve still got that 100 per cent record there.
“I always practice just in case I am needed and I did a bit through the week.
“With Abbo pulling out last minute, I didn’t mind doing it and it was good to see I could still.
“I managed three out of three, so I’ll retire on that – 100 per cent at Cas’ and Hull KR!”
Rovers, who moved up to sixth, host champions St Helens on Friday.
But Crooks said: “We’ve set a marker down against Wigan.
“That performance has been coming for the last few weeks. Our job now is to carry it on. The pressure is on us to keep it up.
“There is no fear for us with who we play. We want to make teams worry about coming to us and make people think twice about it as they know we could do a job on them.
“Bring them (Saints) on. We’ll be happy to try and turn them over like we have done previous teams.”