IT may have been the first day of July but there were hailstones in east Hull before kick-off last night – and then an almighty storm on the pitch, too.
James Green, the Hull KR prop, was red carded in the 38th minute after flooring his former team-mate Jordan Cox.
The game was scoreless at that point but 12-man Rovers immediately crossed through James Donaldson and then built up an impressive 10-0 lead.
However, after high-flying Warrington replied with two tries in quick succession, it seemed James Webster’s side would endure heartache when Jack Hughes, the former Huddersfield Giants second-row, darted over to put them ahead in the 74th minute.
Nevertheless, the relentless hosts earned a deserved point when they won the ball back from a short re-start and ploughed forward.
Iain Thornley did not have many options on the last tackle but the centre grubbered forward and was as amazed as anyone to see everyone let the ball trickle by as he followed up to score with just two minutes remaining.
Ben Cockayne added his second conversion to level the game and, though each side had scruffy and failed drop-goal attempts in the final seconds, a point each was fair enough.
Rovers had lost four of their five games and are still battling to avoid the Qualifiers.
They will almost certainly end up there but with this sort of spirit you would expect them to survive with ease again as they did 12 months ago.
That said, a dire, mistake-ridden first period had looked like getting the treatment it deserved – a 0-0 half-time scoreline.
However, the game exploded when Cox – the rangy prop jettisoned by Hull KR head of rugby Jamie Peacock last winter for not being up to scratch – clashed with his former team-mate.
Initially, he had done well, hitting Green hard in the tackle, pushing him back, forcing the ball loose and leaving the front-row on his backside.
But Cox then appeared to headbutt his opponent on the ground before swinging a punch when Green got to his feet.
The Rovers player responded with a blow of his own – which knocked Cox clean off his feet.
There was an incensed reaction from Rovers, though, when Green was dismissed, even more incredulity when his rival did not see a card of any colour and then just bemusement when the hosts were actually awarded the penalty.
It paid instant dividends; in the next set, George Lawler ushered Donaldson over between the posts with a smart short pass, the deadlock finally broken with just 61 seconds remaining on the clock.
Cockayne converted to send Webster’s side in 6-0 ahead.
Green was showered and changed, taking his seat in the main stand to some acclaim at the start of the second period – while Cox departed soon after having come across a bloody nose.
Rovers extended their lead with a fine try in the 45th minute, Chris Clarkson exploiting Warrington’s weak left-edge defence to break and find Thomas Minns, the centre who reached the corner for his ninth try of the campaign. Cockayne could not convert and, given their man advantage, it was always obvious the visitors would eventually find a foothold in the contest.
They did just that, admittedly with a scrappy try, as winger Matty Russell evaded some poor tackling to stretch over in the corner on 50 minutes. Stefan Ratchford missed the conversion attempt but soon had a second successful crack as Brad Dwyer twisted over between the posts.
That levelled the game at 10-10 but neither side looked ready to make a killer blow.
Rovers struggled to get any real attacking opportunities in Warrington’s 20 while the visitors were hamstrung once more by their poor handling, Chris Sandow producing a bizarre amount of forward passes last night.
Maurice Blair saw a drop-goal attempt fail to make the distance before Albert Kelly denied Ben Currie at the other end.
Warrington missed the influence of injured Kurt Gidley when they then failed to generate a drop-goal chance when in good position.
But his replacement Declan Patton sliced through to set up Hughes, Warrington thinking they had done enough to get the win that would put them within two points of leaders Hull FC. How wrong they were.
Hull KR: Cockayne; Sio, Minns, Thornley, Wardill; Blair, Kelly; Tilse, Lunt, Allgood, Clarkson, Donaldson, Mulhern. Substitutes: Lawler, Green, Walker, Larroyer.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Russell, Evans, T King, Penny; Patton, Sandow; Hill, Clark, Westwood, Currie, Hughes, Westerman. Substitutes: Dwyer, G King, Bailey, Cox.
Referee: M Woodhead (RFL).