AS IT stands, Warrington Wolves are so star-studded they even have an England full-back as their PA announcer.
Shaun Briscoe was master of ceremonies at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday, a familiar face – if not voice – for Hull KR fans given he played 100 games with them before leaving for Widnes Vikings in 2011.
In fairness, the East Yorkshire club could have done with someone of his prowess in the No 1 role against Warrington.
Briscoe, who earned 11 England caps before retiring in 2013 and now works in the Wolves Foundation, was a steely, resolute full-back, particularly capable under the high ball.
When Robins’ current full-back Chris Atkin spilled a standard kick from Blake Austin – more on him later – Harvey Livett mopped up for his second try of the afternoon in the 53rd minute and the early Super League leaders had an 18-8 advantage they were never likely to lose.
Atkin’s afternoon worsened when, barely 10 minutes later, Josh Charnley intercepted his pass to race 90m and make sure.
We talked beforehand about that left-foot step he’s got – and he got me with it straight away,” reflected loose forward Weller Hauraki. “You sort of know it’s coming, but then you think he’s not going to do it. And then he does.Hull KR’s Weller Hauraki
It would, then, be easy to point the finger of blame at the 26 year-old, but let us not forget he is not normally a full-back and is only operating there due to Adam Quinlan’s long-term injury.
Furthermore the England Knights half-back enjoyed assists to both his side’s first-half tries, including a lovely grubber for Ben Crooks and then a brilliant cut-out pass that this time gave Charnley no chance and, instead, saw Craig Hall arc over.
Atkins also produced a fine try-saving tackle on Stefan Ratchford, denying Warrington’s man of the match over the line when he seemed certain to score, so Robins coach Tim Sheens will not be ending the experiment of him at No 1 just yet.
However, it was moments after that tackle that came the big talking point of this contest.
Hull KR captain Joel Tomkins relieved further pressure on his side’s line by intercepting Daryl Clark’s pass and haring off down the middle of the field.
His progress was initially halted by Jack Hughes, who managed to get the former dual-code England international down to the ground, if not held.
Austin, though, came in and finished Tomkins off with a swinging arm to the grounded 31-year-old. The officials deemed it illegal and the Australian stand-off – one of those aforementioned Wolves stars given he arrived here this season from Canberra Raiders as a ‘marquee’ signing –was yellow–carded.
Tomkins had to be helped off and was taken to hospital in an ambulance due to the severity of a serious concussion.
Rovers initially took advantage of the numerical advantage with Hall’s try putting them 8-6 ahead in the 26th minute.
However, just 40 seconds before the break former Hull FC winger Tom Lineham went in for his 100th Super League try with a helping hand from Austin, who went on to cause Rovers all sorts of problems legitimately.
Granted he may yet receive a ban for that foul on Tomkins –Warrington coach Steve Price felt it was just “aggressive” whereas Robins chief Sheens felt the player would be “worried” when the Match Review Panel meet this morning.
But Austin, with his electric pace, a dazzling sidestep and wonderful passing quality, will light up Super League in 2019; he mesmerised Leeds Rhinos in their opening win and left Rovers chasing shadows at times, too.
“We talked beforehand about that left-foot step he’s got – and he got me with it straight away,” reflected loose forward Weller Hauraki. “You sort of know it’s coming, but then you think he’s not going to do it. And then he does.
“He is a sharp player and he’ll be a good bloke for Super League, for sure.”
Rovers started the brightest, but their ball control let them down and, on three separate occasions, they also got caught on the last tackle in unthreatening positions, failing to find a kick.
With players of Ratchford, Clark and Austin’s ilk, Wolves would always make them pay, but Hull KR did make it interesting again late on when Danny Addy craftily unleashed Jimmy Keinhorst for his second try in as many games.
His late heroics earned a win against Hull FC, but Wolves had the last say here when Mike Cooper scored with the final play.
Rovers had to do it tough; they also lost Junior Vaivai to a concussion shortly after he came on in the second period.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Lineham, Goodwin, Atkins, Charnley; Austin, Patton; Hill, D Clark, Cooper, Livett, Hughes, J Clark. Substitutes: Murdoch-Masila, Walker, Philbin, Tasi.
Hull KR: Atkin; Crooks, Keinhorst, Linnett, Hall; McGuire, Drinkwater; Masoe, Lee, Mulhern, Tomkins, Hauraki, Lawler. Substitutes: Garbutt, Greenwood, Addy, Vaivai.
Referee: Liam Moore (Leeds)