IT MUST be hard to stomach for Hull KR fans knowing their resurgent side have now gone four games unbeaten yet still look almost certain to be left battling in the Qualifiers.
Saturday’s hard-fought victory over Widnes Vikings was a third successive win on the back of a draw at Castleford Tigers but their impressive run has seemingly come too late.
Even if the Robins – four points adrift of Huddersfield Giants, Catalans Dragons and Wakefield Trinity who occupy eighth, seventh and sixth in a fascinating logjam – beat Warrington Wolves on Friday and then win at Hull FC in their final fixture they realise it might still not be enough.
Danny Tickle, however, has been around in the sport long enough to acknowledge none of that matters in the bigger picture.
Most importantly, it is vital they continue delivering like this; if they do, you would imagine the East Yorkshire club will have too much class to truly be troubled by relegation fears in their first year back.
Former England second-row Tickle, who contributed his 99th Super League try and, crucially, kicked all four of his goals against Widnes, is just the sort of character they need to secure their Super League future if – or more likely when – they finish in that botton four.
The good thing is we are picking up wins and getting some consistency which we’ve got to keep on improving.”Danny Tickle
“It is disappointing with other results not going our way,” said the 35-year-old, whose sterling efforts continue to show he is perhaps worth another a season for the Craven Park club in 2019.
“But the worst thing you can do is to put your head down and keep dwelling on it. As a club we’re working hard to keep being at our best each week.
“Everybody is aware of where we are in the table, who is playing who, but we’ll leave that to the coaching staff to do the mathematics.
“Whatever happens, wherever we finish, we’ve just got to keep making sure that we perform every week.
“It will take care of itself but the good thing is we are picking up wins and getting some consistency which we’ve got to keep on improving.”
When Tickle angled over smartly off Chris Atkin’s pass and converted his own try for a 14-2 lead in the 43rd minute, the Robins looked set to march on against Super League’s bottom club.
However, there is plenty of fight still in this Widnes team, too, despite a 14th successive league loss and particularly since former Bradford Bulls chief Francis Cummins took over from Denis Betts at the end of May.
Tries from Olly Ashall-Bott and Danny Craven in quick succession suddenly saw them level and, even after Rovers full-back Adam Quinlan skipped through to regain the lead almost immediately, Widnes continued to press.
Teenage winger Owen Buckley was rewarded with a try but Krisnan Inu suffered the only miss of his five attempts at goal to leave them trailing 20-18.
Liam Salter made sure for Rovers with a fine finish in the 67th minute, Tickle’s conversion meaning Buckley’s late second still left the hosts short.
“Credit to Widnes; they hung in there,” admitted Tickle, who spent two seasons with the Vikings after leaving Hull FC in 2013. “They scored a try and could have got another but the momentum flipped so many times during the game.
“A few things didn’t go our way and we let in a few tries in which we could have prevented. But it’s two points, a win and we focus on Warrington.”
In the searing heat, the Robins’ pack deserve plenty of credit for always doing enough to largely keep their side on top. Captain Shaun Lunt led from the front, playing the entire 80 minutes at hooker, despite originally being due to start from the bench.
Fellow nine Tommy Lee pulled out during the warm-up (back) while Justin Carney (ankle) was carried off. Behind that pack, though, Danny McGuire showed all his experience with a telling kicking game and it is no surprise Tim Sheens’ side are purring now the former Leeds half is fit again.
Widnes will rue not capitalising when Tickle was sin-binned for a professional foul in the 14th minute, some quality defensive work from their opponents allied to some wretched handling seeing them waste chances.
It was still just 2-2 when the ex-Halifax forward returned, Chris Atkin cancelling out Inu’s penalty, and then McGuire smartly put James Donaldson between the posts.
Widnes Vikings: Ashall; Marsh, Runciman, Inu, Buckley; Mellor, Craven; J. Chapelhow, Heremaia, Dudson, Whitley, Houston, Leuluai. Substitutes: Olbison, D. Walker, T. Chapelhow, Wellington.
Hull KR: Quinlan; Carney, Blair, Salter, Oakes; McGuire, Atkin; Scruton, Lunt, Mulhern, Tickle, Greenwood, Clarkson. Substitutes: Johnson, Masoe, Kavanagh, Donaldson.
Referee: Tom Grant (Leeds)