Long-suffering Hull KR supporters have become well-tuned to watching their side make hard work of things so they were as surprised as anyone yesterday to see them safely retain their Super League with minimum fuss.
Granted, head coach Tim Sheens insisted afterwards that his side did make his heart skip a few times – a bizarre short drop-out in the first half was one piece of madness – but this morning that will be all forgotten.
The work can now begin in earnest; planning for 2019 and ensuring they are not left in this tense, worrying predicament again any time soon.
When it mattered most, Rovers – led superbly by Danny McGuire and a relentless pack – held their nerve to deliver the result needed to claim third place in the Qualifiers and the final automatic top-flight spot.
Knowing they had to beat already-relegated Widnes Vikings by at least 14 points, it was rarely in doubt.
All of which means, the Million Pound Game will now be contested between Toronto Wolfpack –who dropped to fourth – against London Broncos in Canada on Sunday evening to decide the last vacancy in Super League.
Rovers shrugged off the absence of influential captain Shaun Lunt – hospitalised on Wednesday with meningitis – and then the eighth-minute loss of Australian stand-off Todd Carney to take early control.
Carney broke a rib after just eight minutes in what would normally be a savage a blow for a side involved in a game of such magnitude.
However, when you have Maurice Blair on your bench – as Hull KR did – such a setback can easily be overcome.
Normally used at second-row, the 34-year-old Australian showed all his versatility yet again by effortlessly taking over from Carney at six, proving once more he has been one of the club’s most valuable signings of recent times.
Sheens described him as “brilliant” afterwards and admitted he will be sitting down to try and persuade the popular player to spend another season at Craven Park before retiring.
The East Yorkshire club were 20-0 up by half-time with fellow veteran McGuire having created all three of their tries.
First, his short pass sent James Greenwood over in the eighth minute and then it was his perfectly-weighted chip that saw Ben Crooks collect to ease any early nerves in the home ranks.
There was some dodgy moments for a short time but, overall, the hosts looked comfortable enough and they underlined their superiority when McGuire created their third.
He raced onto Mase Masoe’s offload from inside his own half and found Atkin on his shoulder who scored for the sixth successive match, although the final pass did look forward.
Craig Hall improved all three tries and had also added a penalty to leave Rovers in command. Then it was just a case of making sure they did not ease off.
They did not. Although points did not come with ease, Sheens’s side were rarely troubled and, with a sterling defensive effort, kept Widnes pegged back for the crucial opening period of the second half.
Rhys Hanbury tried breaking clear with a chip ahead but the Widnes full-back – playing his last game before heading home to Australia – blew the chance when re-gathering and sending his pass forward.
Matt Whitley was also called back for a far less obvious forward pass from Harrison Hansen.
Crucially, from that possession, Rovers scored the try that essentially sealed it all.
Junior Vaivai got in at the corner following a quality handling movement in the 57th minute.
Hall hit an upright with his conversion attempt but, after he bundled Owen Buckley into touch with another fulsome tackle, the tall winger slotted a penalty to stretch the lead further.
It was Hall – such an important recruit from Leigh just before the Qualifiers – who then scored to take his tally to 14 tries in just eight games to finish off.
Hull KR: Atkin; Hall, Crooks, Vaivai, Oakes; Carney, McGuire; Masoe, Lee, Scruton, Greenwood, Tomkins, Clarkson. Substitutes: Mulhern, Blair, Kavanagh, Tickle.
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury; Marsh, Brand, Runciman, Buckley; Lyons, Gilmore; Houston, White, Hansen, Whitley, Dean, Leuluai. Substitutes: Heremaia, Wilde, J Chapelhow, T Chapelhow.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).