Hull KR 30 London Broncos 18: Versatile Atkin happy to fill the gaps in Hull KR’s relegation fight

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AS a former PE teacher, it is clear how Hull KR’s Chris Atkin may have an understanding of a variety of different sports.

It should be no surprise, then, that the 25-year-old also has a fair grasp of many different positions in his chosen one.

Hull KR players celebrate.

Hull KR players celebrate.

Atkin was in his preferred role of half-back on Saturday night, crucially delivering a raft of telling plays to help Rovers gain a tense, nervy but much-needed win in their continued bid to retain their Super League position.

It was yet another mature performance from a player who only gave up that teaching job barely 15 months ago when leaving part-timers Swinton Lions for a dream shot with the East Yorkshire club.

At one point in this Qualifiers tie, Rovers, who led 20-6 against their Championship rivals at half-time, looked like they might be on course for a costly defeat.

A second try from Michael Channing, the former Castleford Tigers winger, was converted by Jarrod Sammut to leave increasingly-confident London trailing just 20-18 in the 64th minute.

Rovers, conceding too many penalties, had lost their way but, thankfully, they forced an error in the next set and, with another smart pass, Atkin was able to usher James Greenwood over for the back-row’s second try and ease all the mounting pressure.

Relieved coach Tim Sheens revealed afterwards he had initially toyed with the idea of operating Atkin – who has played hooker for large parts this term – at full-back.

Regular No 1 Adam Quinlan could miss up to 12 months after suffering a nasty anterior cruciate ligament injury in the previous week’s win over Halifax.

However, fellow half-back Danny McGuire succumbed to a groin injury in Friday’s final practice session when Australian Maurice Blair also tore a hamstring to leave Rovers’ plans in disarray.

McGuire felt pain in his calf, too, prompting fears the veteran may have another blood clot but scans cleared any concerns he had suffered that worrying issue for the second time this season.

The former Leeds Rhinos star should be fit for Saturday’s trip to Toulouse where a fifth successive Qualifiers win may be enough to guarantee safety prior to the last game against Widnes Vikings.

But to add to Rovers’ woe – they were missing six injured players from the previous week – Craig Hall, who did fill in at No 1, tweaked a groin in the warm-up meaning he was not able to kick goals or perform restarts.

It was perhaps no surprise Sheens was so happy in gleaning the two points following all the late, pre-match issues although Atkin is getting used to things sometimes turning chaotic.

“It’s happened a couple of times this year with being at nine and half and not sure of what’s going on but I’m just enjoying rugby at the minute, wherever I am,” said the player, whose swift progress means he could well be on a plane to Papua New Guinea with England Knights next month.

“I had a conversation with Tim earlier on last week that I’m willing to step into that (full-back) role if needed. Ideally maybe Danny would have played some part if he was fit but things happen and we just had to get on with it.

“We couldn’t spend too much time worrying about who played where. We just had to get on with it together and at some parts – where we were on the back foot –we hung on well together.”

McGuire’s absence meant former Australia international Todd Carney got a start at stand-off but it was the less experienced Atkin who actually stood up to take greater control.

He scored one first-half try after a lovely move involving Junior Vaivai, supplied Greenwood’s second and kicked three goals from four attempts.

The Widnes-born player says he would be willing to switch to full-back in 2019 if needed.

“Yes, I’m open to it,” added Atkin, as Rovers look to fill the sizeable void left by Australian Quinlan’s absence. “It’s very similar to half-back with the way we play and we spoke about a few little things we did on Saturday.

“We’ll maybe have that conversation in the off-season and obviously we’ve got young Will Dagger who, when he has played this year he’s been outstanding. I think he’ll be an ideal replacement after we’ve unfortunately lost Adam but we’ll just have to see what happens in pre-season. I just want to play every week wherever it is.

“We go to France next and everything’s in our control now; we just need to go get another win and keep winning.”

The impressive Greenwood and Tommy Lee scored KR’s other first-half tries, Vaivai adding some gloss late on.

Rovers lost Ben Crooks to a yellow card for kicking the ball away in the fifth minute but remained untroubled until Will Lovell’s 55th-minute try got London –hopeful of a Million Pound Game appearance – back in the hunt.

Hull KR: Hall; Salter, Crooks, Vaivai, Oakes; T Carney, Atkin; Scruton, Lee, Mulhern, Greenwood, Tomkins, Clarkson. Substitutes: Lunt, Kavanagh, Donaldson, Tickle.

London Broncos: Walker; Channing, Hellewell, Kear, Williams; Cunningham, Sammut; Ioane, Davis, Evans, Pitts, Hindmarsh, Battye. Substitutes: Pelissier, Gee, Adebiyi, Lovell.

Referee: Greg Dolan (Batley).