HAVING won the Super League Grand Final with Leeds Rhinos, lifted the League Leaders’ Shield at Huddersfield Giants and also represented England on numerous occasions, Hull KR captain Shaun Lunt has achieved plenty during his excellent career.
However, none of those accomplishments surpassed the elation he felt when beating Widnes Vikings in a Qualifiers game in East Hull on Saturday.
Clearly, there was more to it than that brief description; this tense, enthralling 12-6 victory had a notable bonus attached to the rudimentary two points.
Crucially, of course, it also secured promotion back to Super League for the ecstatic Robins.
Lunt stated in pre-season it would be the biggest achievement of his career if he could help Rovers make an immediate return after that cruel Million Pound Game defeats to Salford Red Devils barely 11 months ago.
Did, then, the indefatigable hooker still maintain that assertion having actually completed the arduous task amid memorable scenes at Craven Park?
This ecstasy now is literally a massive contrast to what we felt this time last year. It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t be more proud of any of those boys out there today.Hull KR’s Shaun Lunt
“Yes, 100 per cent I stand by that,” said Lunt, who, as ever, was so instrumental in guiding Tim Sheens’s side home against Super League opponents. “The feeling today is better than after winning the Grand Final (in 2012).
“This ecstasy now is literally a massive contrast to what we felt this time last year. It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t be more proud of any of those boys out there today.
“We didn’t make it easy for ourselves at times but who cares now?”
Indeed. And, fittingly, Lunt was one of four Rovers players featuring who had also been in the side against Salford last October.
Back then, he was left dejected, stunned and broken on the same Craven Park pitch as KR squandered an eight-point lead with just 90 seconds remaining and then lost on golden point to be consigned to the Championship
However, the club has hardly put a foot wrong since, either on or off the field, and they fully deserve this return to the elite.
Like the majority of the squad, Lunt decided to stay on last year for the fight ahead and Sheens’s decision to then make him captain is just one of those judicious calls that have underpinned this swift response.
After finishing top of the Championship, with minimum fuss they have won all of their five opening Qualifiers games including beating another Super League side – Leigh Centurions.
They knew if Warrington Wolves could beat Leigh on Saturday, too, and they got over Widnes themselves, they would be up.
Having taken an 8-6 interval lead with Thomas Minns’s try just before the break, Ryan Shaw’s 80m intercept in the 69th minute stretched their lead, although Jamie Ellis’s failure to add the simple conversion attempt and an earlier penalty left many in the 8,227 crowd still in a state of flux.
Lunt admitted: “We knew the significance of it all if Warrington won. We got the call on 65 minutes that they had. Then if Jamie had kicked that goal at the end it would have made it a whole lot easier but that’s how we’ve played all year; dogged performances.
“It wasn’t pretty but who cares? We won and we’re up.”
The continued support of chairman Neil Hudgell and vice-chairman Rob Crossland has been vital but, as that duo stated on Saturday night, so has the response of the club’s support and sponsors who have actually increased in numbers in the Championship.
Furthermore, continuing with Sheens’s appointment – the former Australia coach expected to take up his post in Super League last autumn – has proved central to the squad’s improvement. “The club has given us a foundation to build on but Tim has been just unbelievable,” said Lunt, about the garlanded 66-year-old.
“His man-management is second to none and he is by far the best coach I’ve worked under. Sheensy has been absolutely huge and for him to take us up to Super League in what was his 700th game is immense.
“There’s no words I can use to describe how good he’s been and what a bloke. He’s phenomenal.”
Widnes were limited to Hep Cahill’s converted try. Their battle for safety now continues.
Hull KR: Quinlan; Shaw, Heffernan, Minns, Moss; Abdull, Ellis; Scruton, Lawler, Jewitt, Addy, Clarkson, Kavanagh. Substitutes: Greenwood, Lunt, Masoe, Blair.
Widnes Vikings: Thompson; Marsh, Dean, Runciman, Ince; Mellor, Craven; Buchanan, White, Dudson, Whitley, Houston, Cahill. Substitutes: Gerrard, Manuokafoa, Olbison, Walker.
Referee: G Hewer (Whitehaven).