Tim Sheens praised his Super League outfit after Hull KR ended a difficult week with a revenge 32-0 win over League One Oldham in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
The former Australian coach was also pleased by the contribution of competition newcomer Junior Vaivai.
Rovers have been rocked by Thomas Minns’s failed drugs test and went into a repeat of their 2016 defeat to Oldham without Danny McGuire, Justin Carney, Chris Clarkson and Shaun Lunt.
“I credit the boys with keeping their heads down and wanting to play tough,” said Sheens.
“The scoreline was to nil and had it been 2-0 I would still have been happy.
“Considering we had key people out I was happy with our defence, in particular.
“We focused on that in training and they got stuck in physically preparing.
“It was a physical game so we were in the right frame of mind for it.
“It developed into a ‘get even’ fest at the back end and we lost our way a little bit.
“But we won the penalty count and that must be the first time this year.
“Credit to Oldham. They completed at 93 per cent in the first half which was brilliant. So for us to be leading 20-0 at half-time, I was very happy with that.”
US international Vaivai only played the opening 40 minutes and hat-trick hero Adam Quinlan was withdrawn after 47 minutes with a return to Super League against Leeds in mind.
“He did the job in the first half and we have bigger things for him,” said Sheens of Vaivai.
“He still isn’t 100 per cent fit so there was no use risking an issue... we are a little skinny there at centre. Junior has got great feet. He showed it against Warrington last week and played 80 minutes when he wasn’t supposed to play.
“With the Thomas Minns thing he had to be thrown into the squad but I am trying to look after him and get him through the next couple of games.”
Oldham coach Scott Naylor was proud of his team’e efforts but disappointed by the performance of referee Gareth Hewer.
The Cumbrian official awarded 15 of the game’s 23 penalties against the part-timers and Naylor said: “We just needed a bit of help and the official in the middle didn’t give us any.
“He refereed it at Super League level and he refereed it towards Hull KR.”
Oldham: Hooley, Kershaw, Reid, Holmes, Eccleston, Crook, Hewitt, Joy, Owen, Spencer, Bridge, Langtree, Bent. Substitutes: Briscoe, Jones, Nelmes, Hughes.
Hull K R: Quinlan, Shaw, Salter, Vaivai, Oakes, Atkin, Marsh, Johnson, Cator, Scruton, Walne, Tickle, Donaldson. Substitutes: Masoe, Blair, Greenwood, Dagger.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (RFL).