HULL KR hooker Shaun Lunt says the club must now begin “planning” for life in the Qualifiers.
Thursday’s 36-12 defeat at Hull FC meant Rovers’ hopes of making Super League’s top-eight were ended.
For a second successive season, they will face the Championship’s top four in the Middle Eights when the leagues split after next Thursday’s final round against Leeds Rhinos.
“We wanted to win at Hull regardless of whether we lost next week,” said Lunt. “You want to win every game so it’s disappointing to lose like we did and now be condemned to the Middle Eights.
“But it is closure; we know where we are now and we can get our heads around that, plan and go forward.”
Rovers successfully negotiated the relegation threat last year by winning all seven Qualifiers but it is set to be a far sterner test this time around and they will have to improve on Thursday’s showing.
They challenged Hull early on but James Webster’s side spurned two great chances to take the lead and, instead, were soon 18-0 down.
“Rugby league’s an arm wrestle and you have to go through peaks and troughs,” said former England international Lunt. “It’s how you react when you go through those troughs and how you come back that counts.
“Hull FC had their trough at the start. We were all over them but they clawed their way back into the game and got on the up.
“A few calls went against us which was very disappointing but that’s league and they dealt with their troughs better than us.”
One positive was the surprise return of winger Josh Mantellato for the first time since breaking an arm against Hull on Good Friday.
Lunt, 29, said: “I didn’t know. Webbo phoned me on the day to tell me Josh was passed fit.
“It’s really good good to see him back out there and not just for us but himself as well; he’s been so unlucky with injuries this year.”