Hull KR 26 St Helens 42: Makinson and Naiqama hat-tricks end KR's hopes of shock win

IT WAS yet another defeat but Hull KR will take plenty of positives away from a spirited effort against Super League leaders St Helens.

England prop Alex Walmsley goes on the attack for St Helens v Hull KR (SWPix)

Having lost their last three games, and conceded 138 points along the way, the last opponent Rovers would have wanted to face today was the Justin Holbrook’s prolific side.

However, the East Yorkshire club - still missing a raft of injured first-teamers - made real improvements on recent outings and fully played their part in a thrilling encounter at KCOM Craven Park.

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Indeed, they led early in the second period and were just two points behind heading into the final quarter, only to see relieved Saints eventually reach safety as England winger Tommy Makinson and Fijian centre Kevin Naiqama both completed hat-tricks.

St Helens' Tommy Makinson takes on Hull KR. (SWPix)

Defeat was hard to take for 11th-placed Rovers, who had invested so much into the contest but ultimately suffered a fourth successive loss ahead of Saturday’s Challenge Cup tie at Salford Red Devils and there was too many costly errors.

They led approaching the break and only went in behind following Naiqama’s second try in the 36th minute, the sort of classy, clever score this Saints side have become so associated with.

However, Rovers had been well worthy of their 14-12 lead up until that point.

Up front, Robbie Mulhern, George Lawler and Antoni Maria set a solid lead and Kane Linnett, in particular, was a powerful carrier on the left edge as the hosts refused to be cowed by the leaders.

Moreover, Tim Sheens’ side were able to create numerous promising raids, often quickly finding space that Craig Hall, the full-back, could exploit.

They were 12-0 up inside just 11 minutes and, realistically, should really have been even further ahead.

Josh Drinkwater was the first Robin to unexpected;y splinter the usually firm Saints defence but the Australian scrum-half, in almost comical style, stumbled just as it seemed easier to score and lost the ball.

Still, his side did make sure soon after when Danny Addy - the versatile forward who started at hooker - showed real confidence to dummy over from acting-half on the last tackle.

Rovers scored again in the next set following a thrilling move of real elan.

Hall was easily put into space from deep and he surged clear, initially looking to have made the wrong decision kicking ahead with support on either side.

However, winger Ryan Shaw showed tremendous speed to accelerate and beat the Saints cover to the ball just before it bounced dead.

Shaw converted both and Holbrook’s side were fortunate to get a foothold in the game in the 17th minute.

One of their players was clearly offside when chasing Makinson’s kick ahead but was not pulled back and Rovers conceded a drop-out from which Naiqama scored his first.

Admittedly, the flick pass from Jonny Lomax that acted as an assist was stellar but that did not aid frustrated Rovers in any way as Lachlan Coote slotted the first of his five conversions.

Nevertheless, with a sign of their nervousness to come, Saints allowed Hall’s restart to bounce to cede possession and immediately conceded a penalty that he swiftly converted.

The visitors did get the upper hand, though, off a typically bullocking Alex Walmsley run, the England prop then finding the offload that saw Makinson go over for his first.

Next, and with real ingenuity, Theo Fages created space down the right edge for Makinson to send Naiqama in for his first and an 18-14 interval lead.

Rovers man-of-the-match Jimmy Keinhorst - like Linnett, a centre playing back-row - put his side back ahead at the start of the second period following some slick handling.

But Will Oakes - the young winger who otherwise had performed well - failed to deal with the restart, conceding a drop-out from which Lomax scored off Dom Peyroux’s quality offload.

Like Rovers in the first half, Saints then scored back-to-back as Makinson produced a stunning 70m run and even rounded the swift Hall with ease.

Oakes scored a deserved try on the hour following some superb offloading from his team-mates and Shaw - who finished with six goals - curled in another touchline conversion to leave them just 28-26 behind.

However, Naiqama - the former Wests Tigers star who has been a revelation for Saints this term - claimed his treble as their right-side caused more chaos in the 63rd minute.

Typically, it was the 30-year-old who then provided the pass for Golden Boot holder Makinson’s third before Regan Grace rounded things off.

Hull KR: Hall; Shaw, Vaivai, Crooks, Oakes; Drinkwater, McGuire; Mulhern, Addy, Maria, Linnett, Keinhorst, Lawler. Substitutes: Atkin, Lunt, Rooks, Hauraki.

St Helens: Coote; Makinson, Naiqama, Costello, Grace; Lomax, Fages; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles. Substitutes: Paulo, Amor, Ashworth, Welsby.

Referee: Liam Moore (Leeds)