Hull KR 22 Leeds Rhinos 12: Jez Litten guides Robins to victory to show he is main man at Craven Park

Jez Litten had to wait several years but he can finally call himself Hull KR's main man at hooker.

With Matt Parcell unavailable due to suspension, Litten was asked to play the full 80 minutes and did not miss a beat in KR's 22-12 win over Leeds Rhinos.

The 25-year-old was a threat out of dummy-half, got through his fair share of work in defence and kicked five precious goals.

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Third choice in round one as Peta Hiku failed to convince, Litten was faultless in a strong audition to keep the tee permanently.

After being handed the number nine shirt in the off-season, the Hull native is already starting to repay Willie Peters' faith.

The early signs are positive for the Robins after backing up their derby win with another gritty performance.

In heavy conditions, Rovers dug deep to honour the memory of former vice-chairman Rob Crossland who passed away on the eve of the game.

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Three cards were issued by referee Jack Smith to continue an early-season theme but Peta Hiku, James Donaldson and Sam Lisone could have few complaints.

Hull KR celebrate Jesse Sue's opening try. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/ KR celebrate Jesse Sue's opening try. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/
Hull KR celebrate Jesse Sue's opening try. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/

Harry Newman opened the scoring in the 10th minute with Hiku in the sin bin, only for the Robins to take control thanks to tries from Jesse Sue and Ryan Hall either side of Donaldson's indiscretion.

Ash Handley gave Leeds hope with a sensational try a week on from his sparkling effort against Salford Red Devils but Hiku's late try finished the visitors off after Lisone saw yellow.

Without eight first-teamers, the Rhinos were guilty of losing their composure with the game on the line.

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Leeds were hampered by the late withdrawal of full-back Lachie Miller but his replacement Alfie Edgell stood up well on his first Super League start.

Referee Jack Smith issued three cards. (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)Referee Jack Smith issued three cards. (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)
Referee Jack Smith issued three cards. (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

Edgell passed his first test when he took Mikey Lewis' towering kick but Rhyse Martin undid the youngster's good work with an ill-advised pass on play two that was ruled forward.

After seeing Mickael Goudemand penalised for an incorrect play the ball inside his own 30 in Leeds' second set, the travelling fans must have thought they had been transported back to last March when their side endured a nightmare night at Craven Park.

But the Rhinos steadied themselves and had a chance to get into the game following Hiku's yellow card for a professional foul.

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The full-back slipped on the greasy surface and was forced into a mistake by Handley before preventing the Leeds winger from playing the ball quickly.

Peta Hiku touches down to seal the win. (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)Peta Hiku touches down to seal the win. (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)
Peta Hiku touches down to seal the win. (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

The Rhinos punished Hiku with Rovers stretched on their left edge, Newman cutting back inside to score after a late offload off the ground by James Bentley.

Martin maintained his perfect record from the tee this season after a faultless kicking display in round one and Leeds defended their 6-0 lead with an edge that was missing for much of 2023.

Jai Whitbread was held up over the line by Cameron Smith before being halted by Edgell after charging onto a line ball from Elliot Minchella.

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Just as it appeared as if the Rhinos had seen off KR's best efforts, the home side found a way through with the help of a post.

Litten slid a kick through and Sue was in the right place to finish after it rebounded off the upright.

The try was improved by Litten and he knocked over a penalty on the stroke of half-time following a high shot by Donaldson on Oliver Gildart.

Jai Whitbread was a strong performer for Rovers. (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)Jai Whitbread was a strong performer for Rovers. (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)
Jai Whitbread was a strong performer for Rovers. (Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

Jack Smith brandished a yellow card to the frustration of the home supporters who were baying for a red.

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The incident followed a first drop of the night by Edgell from Tyrone May's high kick, the only blemish in an assured first-half performance.

It proved to be a costly period for the Rhinos either side of the interval with Newman allowing the ball to bounce into touch after losing his footing from the restart.

Rovers did not punish Leeds immediately but set about suffocating the visitors and eventually found a way through in scrappy fashion seven minutes into the half.

Hall's try owed to another slice of fortune, May cleared of a knock-on after the video referee correctly adjudged that the ball had rebounded off his leg as he tried to flick it backwards.

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Litten nailed the touchline conversion to give Rovers an eight-point cushion but the Rhinos stayed with the hosts and had hope when Handley scored another early contender for try of the season.

Brodie Croft found the winger with a pinpoint cross-field kick deep inside his own half and Handley did the rest with a breathtaking finish that featured a dummy on Niall Evalds.

Martin made it a two-point game but Leeds lost their way in the closing stages as they fell to a first defeat of the season.

Lisone was sin-binned for a high shot on Minchella with 12 minutes to go to signal the beginning of the end for the Rhinos.

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Litten knocked over the penalty and put the seal on a superb individual performance with a fifth goal after Hiku raced through to finish May's smart kick.

Hull KR: Hiku, Evalds, Opacic, Gildart, Hall, May, Lewis, Whitbread, Litten, King, Tanginoa, Batchelor, Minchella. Substitutes: Sue, Storton, Aydin, Hall.

Tries: Sue (32), Hall (47), Hiku (71)

Goals: Litten 5/5

Sin bin: Hiku (6)

Leeds Rhinos: Edgell, Roberts, Newman, Momirovski, Handley, Croft, Frawley, Sangare, Ackers, Goudemand, Bentley, Martin, Smith. Substitutes: O'Connor, Lisone, Ruan, Donaldson.

Tries: Newman (10), Handley (57)

Goals: Martin 2/2

Sin bin: Donaldson (40), Lisone (68)

Referee: Jack Smith.

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