MITCH GARBUTT continued his fine start to life as a Hull KR player with two important tries to help steer the Robins to a hard-fought win over promoted London Broncos.
That takes the Australian prop’s tally to three in as many game since joining from Leeds Rhinos in the off-season and it was also a second man-of-the-match display.
Garbutt is the early season top metre-maker in Super League and the East Yorkshire club - missing captain Joel Tomkins with concussion - certainly needed his forceful, direct nature to get going here.
They had been 6-4 down at half-time and, given the paucity of their play, looked like being London’s second victim on their return to Super League after an opening day win versus Wakefield Trinity.
However, two tries inside just five minutes at the start of the second period, ultimately changed the outcome of this match.
Garbutt, who head coach Tim Sheens revealed had met club targets on reducing his body fat to get in his best shape for years, was simply too strong close to the line as he stretched over in the 43rd minute for his first.
The next effort was far more sublime with Junior Vaivai - the USA centre who came to life in the second period - showing wonderful footwork to beat Ryan Morgan and send Craig Hall clear.
The winger cut inside to finish with aplomb but the best was still yet to come.
Stand-off Josh Drinkwater’s inside pass saw Will Dagger fly through the middle, the full-back impressing after coming in for Chris Atkin, who suffered a number of costly errors in last week’s loss at Warrington.
Although Dagger was eventually denied, Rovers had prime attacking position and, after Mose Masoe’s smart pass to McGuire, Drinkwater produced a remarkably swifty flick-on pass for Garbutt to scramble in for his second.
Hall improved the latter two - Drinkwater the first - and, at 22-6, the game was essentially over when Eloi Pelissier, the French hooker, flew into Dagger with a high tackle from the hanging restart.
He was sin-binned and, though Rovers were unable to add to their score while London were down to 12 men, they knew their work had been done, securing a second victory from three outings so far.
Once Broncos were back to a full complement, Jordan Abdull’s smart grubber created a try for ex-Hull second-row Jay Pitts, Kieran Dixon improving, but it was too little too late in the 73rd minute.
KR had scored as early as the third minute with Kane Linnett twisting over from close range for his first for the club since joining from North Queensland Cowboys.
But that aside, little else went right for them in the first half following a disjointed and erratic display.
Things started going awry soon after. Rovers had actually forced an opening with Robbie Mulhern latching onto a break from deep.
The England prop, though, opted to kick ahead with support on his shoulder and could only watch on as the ball dribbled harmlessly into touch.
From the resulting set, London responded with alarming ease, James Cunningham’s pass in centrefield exposing a huge gap for Matthew Gee to race through, the second-row sprinting in from around 30m, easing past agger.
Ex-Robins winger Dixon gave the visitors a 6-4 lead and they went on to largely control the half.
The Hull-born half-back pairing of Cunningham and Abdull - the former KR stand-off - caused them all sorts of problems and with greater precision London would have extended their lead.
Eddie Battye fumbled near the line after Matthew Fozard’s fine 40/20 kick and full-back Alex Walker surged through the middle before being pulled back after grubbering forward.
Walker also created an overlap only to give a poor final pass and three times London were caught on the last tackle, too, when they could have put more pressure on Hull KR who had been in a real mess.
Sheens - who lost Ben Crooks (hip) and James Greenwood (concussion) to injuries - must have been shocked at some of their initial play, especially some of the lax tackling as Broncos’ willing pack kept coming forward.
The hosts gave away needless penalties, too, the worst of which was for obstruction on the first tackle in London’s 20m area after earning a penalty themselves.
But also Mulhern was penalised for a shoulder charge and then Danny McGuire was spoken to after another late hit on Abdull.
George Lawler gave a woeful pass behind McGuire which meant the ex-Great Britain stand-off had to scurry back before getting a kick away and the Robins looked off the pace.
The second period, however, was largely a different story.
Hull KR: Dagger; Crooks, Keinhorst, Vaivai, Hall; McGuire, Drinkwater; Mulhern, Lawler, Masoe, Linnett, Hauraki, Greenwood. Substitutes: Lee, Garbutt, Lannon, Atkin.
London Broncos: Walker; Dixon, Morgan, Kear, Williams; Abdull, Cunningham; Mason, Fozard, Richards, Pitts, Gee, Yates. Substitutes: Pelissier, Ioane, Battye, Lovell.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (Leigh)