Pack battle is key to Hull recovery hopes

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HULL KR coach Craig Sandercock is more concerned by an “absolutely massive” Widnes Vikings pack than their opponents’ maligned artificial pitch.

The East Yorkshire side travel there tomorrow knowing they must quickly turn their worrying form around if they are to secure a play-off place.

Rovers are only back in the top eight courtesy of Bradford Bulls’ six-points deduction for entering administration and Monday’s derby loss against Hull FC was a fourth straight defeat.

Promoted Widnes, who produced a stunning 46-8 win at Salford City Reds, are no longer viewed as the vulnerable outfit which won just two of its opening 15 Super League games.

Sandercock, who saw Rovers defeat them 36-0 early in March, admitted: “They’re playing well on their home ground where they have turned over Wigan and Huddersfield.

“St Helens only beat them after the siren and they defeated Salford easily last weekend so we realise it’ll be tough and they’ll be confident.

“Widnes have also possibly got the biggest forward pack in Super League – some of those boys are absolutely massive – so we need to be at our best in the middle, control that and hopefully convert a couple of opportunities.”

Certainly, the likes of former Leeds prop Ben Cross, Steve Pickersgill and Frank Winterstein do make for a robust pack but Sandercock concedes many of his slow-starting side’s problems are self-inflicted.

“Against Hull, we did actually start well and kicked an early penalty goal,” he said. “But then we dropped the ball from the kick-off and that’s been our story for the last month - basic errors.

“We need to be more composed with the ball, get more attitude in our defence and, hopefully, we can turn the corner.”

He must do so, though, without full-back Shannon McDonnell (ankle) and Con Mika (hamstring) who face up to six weeks out after picking up injuries on Monday.