HULL KR are nearly there after extending their 100 per cent record in the Qualifiers to four games with a 30-18 success at Featherstone Rovers.
One victory from their final three matches – all against Super League opposition – should be enough to secure a return to the top-flight a year after the Robins were relegated in the million pound game.
If and when they do escape the second tier, the East Yorkshire side will probably be glad to see the back of Featherstone, who finished fourth in the table.
The middle-eights showdown at Post Office Road was the sides’ third meeting this year and Featherstone have given the Championship leaders more trouble than most.
They lost by eight points at Craven Park, forced a draw in the return and were competitive throughout yesterday’s tie. The final scoreline was a fair reflection, but Featherstone could not match the full-time team’s pace and Hull KR’s more clinical finishing was the difference.
“We fell away in the second half, due to a few silly errors,” said Hull KR coach Tim Sheens, whose side led 18-6 at the interval.
“I was very happy with the first half, after being 6-0 down. We are four from four now and we are happy with that.”
Promotion could be secured at home to Widnes Vikings on Saturday, but Sheens insisted it will be “business as usual” this week.
He added: “We have got both feet in the million pound game, which was our first aim.
“We have got some momentum behind us, but we will be keeping our heads down and not worrying about anything other than winning football games.”
We have got both feet in the million pound game, which was our first aim. We have got some momentum behind us, but we will be keeping our heads down and not worrying about anything other than winning football games.Hull KR head coach, Tim Sheens
Kyran Johnson, Featherstone’s pacy left-winger, opened the scoring on eight minutes from an excellent pass by Misi Taulapapa after Richard Moore and Anthony Thackeray had also handled.
Ian Hardman converted, but Hull KR were level just six minutes later thanks to an equally impressive turn of speed from Ryan Shaw, who was in direct opposition to Johnson.
The home team looked set to score through Josh Hardcastle, but he was wrapped up by Thomas Minns. As Featherstone moved the ball left, Hardman’s loose pass was snapped up by Shaw close to his own line and he raced the full length of the field. Jamie Ellis kicked the first of his four conversions.
Featherstone second-rower John Davies made a stunning tackle to keep Justin Carney out on the other flank, but the hosts’ pace again proved too much for the lower division team four minutes into the second quarter.
Andrew Heffernan in the right-centre, was a big influence for Hull KR. He made a searing break after being sent away by Chris Clarkson. Veteran prop Moore, whose injury in the second half was a big blow for Featherstone, got back to make the tackle, but on the next play Danny Addy went over from Chris Atkin’s pass.
Another run from Heffernan established the field position for the Robins’ third try, seven minutes before the interval, but it was Maurice Blair who did most of the damage, rampaging upfield before offloading to Ellis almost on the home side’s line.
Ellis controlled the game well and formed an effective half-back combination with Atkin. The visitors could have made the game safe just before half-time, after opting to go for touch from a kickable penalty, but Addy spilled Atkin’s pass.
Featherstone got back into the game when Frankie Mariano forced his way over from a pass by Sam Brooks. There was a suspicion of a double-movement, but Hardman added the extras.
That lifted the home team and they went close to getting on terms through Mariano, but Adam Quinlan made a crucial tackle. Ellis then calmed Hull KR’s nerves with a penalty goal, just before the hour mark, to edge them two scores ahead.
With 15 minutes left successive penalties took Hull KR from their own line deep into Featherstone territory and Minns went over for an unconverted try from Atkin’s well-timed pass and four minutes later Heffernan crawled over from close range after a powerful charge by Mose Masoe. That put the game beyond Featherstone, but the home side’s effort was rewarded when James Lockwood put Johnson over for a consolation try and Hardman completed the scoring with a touchline conversion.
Featherstone coach John Duffy said: “I thought our attitude was first class and in the first half we really troubled them, but we had a few defensive lapses.
“You have got to take your opportunities when they come and we didn’t. We got burned for it. You can’t turn over cheap possession like we did, but I was really proud of the boys. I thought in big periods of the game we bashed them and we deserved more out of it.”
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Johnson, Taulapapa, Hardcastle, Briscoe, Thackeray, Wildie, Moore, Carlile, Ormondroyd, Davies, Farrell, Lockwood. Substitutes: Brooks, Cooper, Mariano, Briggs.
Hull KR: Quinlan, Shaw, Heffernan, Minns, Carney, Atkin, Ellis, Jewitt, Lawler, Scruton, Addy, Clarkson, Kavanagh. Substitutes: Lunt, Masoe, Greenwood, Blair.
Referee: G Hewer (Whitehaven).