IF this is how they play all season, Hull KR fans won’t mind one iota where they end up in the Super League table.
They fell to bottom yesterday but, on the back of a stunning win over Wigan Warriors a week earlier, Chris Chester’s impressive side almost produced another success against one of the competition’s main forces.
When Kevin Larroyer bundled over from close range in the 52nd minute, the only agricultural try in their four during a classy afternoon, Josh Mantellato converted to put the visitors 18-14 ahead.
With Terry Campese, their brilliant stand-off, seemingly able to create something with every touch, the East Yorkshire side must have felt confident of pushing on for a second victory of the year.
Warrington, though, quickly responded via Gary Wheeler after Matty Russell, the Scotland full-back who was outstanding after being shifted to the wing, scorched clear to regain the initiative.
Russell soon got his own second try, too, but even then Campese’s guile opened up the home side for Graeme Horne to score with 12 minutes to go, Mantellato’s kick making it 26-24.
There was no glorious finish, Chester’s side perhaps feeling the draining effects of some heavy defence in the first period, but still, Warrington could not rest until Ben Currie, acting as a makeshift centre after Ryan Atkins pulled out ill yesterday morning, crossed late on.
Asked if his squad deserved more, Chester admitted: “I thought so. We did dominate for big periods of the game and there was plenty of positives to take. The way we managed to find a way back into the game was pleasing after conceding three quick tries in the first half as was the way we defended our line for six or seven sets in the first 10 minutes.
“But we ran out of steam and just didn’t get the field position we wanted. Take nothing away from Warrington. They are a class side who have got some speed and we did drop off a few tackles in the end which cost us.”
Warrington enjoyed most of the pressure and territory in that first half but did not possess anyone with the creative talent of Campese.
It was largely due to that that the visitors were still in the game at half-time trailing just 14-12.
While Warrington had to strive hard and labour for all their three tries against a well-organised defence, former Kangaroo Campese just tended to casually appear with a piercing pass whenever he saw fit.
It was the Rovers captain who unleashed Ben Cockayne in the seventh minute for Kris Welham to send Mantellato over and Campese was instrumental, too, when the Italian international got his second five minutes before the break.
This time he struggled free to put Welham into space, the recalled centre showing confidence to take on the Wolves rearguard and execute a difficult inside pass for the winger to score between the posts.
Mantellato converted both and, after Albert Kelly was checked chasing a chip in the closing seconds, was only marginally wide with a penalty from just inside his half that would have levelled it.
In between Rovers’ tries, the hosts scored their first after Tyrone McCarthy – the former Warrington second-row making his first return to Halliwell Jones Stadium – was yellow carded for a high tackle on Ashton Sims.
Sims was also sent to the sin-bin for lashing out in retaliation but his side capitalised from the pen, Russell eventually getting in after a desperate, long pass from Stefan Ratchford.
Rovers, Campese particularly, had found plenty of luck attacking Warrington’s right edge but when Cocakyne’s off-load hit the ground in his own half, Smith’s side made him pay, Ratchford showing his own class to delay a pass for Joel Monaghan to score.
Ratchford converted and, when Mantellato struck the restart out on the full, Joe Philbin crossed as, for the first time, Rovers’ defence proved fragile.
However, Mantellato kept them in touch and, so, when he was sent haring away again by Campese early in the second half, it meant his conversion of Larroyer’s close-range try soon after put them in front for the first time.
“Terry’s getting better every week,” admitted Chester, about the 30-year-old Canberra Raiders capture.
“His game-management again was very good, he took on the line and we scored some very good tries.”
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Penny, Currie, Monaghan, Russell; Wheeler, O’Brien; Hill, Clark, Sims, Philbin, Laithwaite, Westwood. Substitutes: Higham, Asotasi, B Evans, King.
Hull KR: Cockayne; Sio, Goulding, Welham, Mantellato; Campese, Kelly; Walker, Boudebza, Allgood, McCarthy, Blair, Burke. Substitutes: Horne, Dixon, Larroyer, Green.
Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).