HULL KR’S Josh Drinkwater admits the struggling club are now firmly locked in a relegation battle and he has “no excuses” for his missed drop goal against Wigan Warriors.
After Sam Powell’s 79th-minute one-pointer from 42m out had put the champions 19-18 ahead on Sunday, the Australian had his own chance to level with just three seconds remaining.
Admittedly, it was a difficult shot to take, being almost at the halfway line, and Drinkwater duly pulled it wide, denying Rovers the opportunity to take the contest into Golden Point extra-time.
The defeat left Rovers 11th in Super League but joint-bottom with London Broncos who, at the same time, secured a shock 23-22 win over leaders St Helens following Morgan Smith’s Golden Point drop goal.
It was Tony Smith’s first game in charge after taking over from the sacked head coach Tim Sheens last week.
It was a tough kick but there’s no excuses. I put my hand up there.Josh Drinkwater
Drinkwater told The Yorkshire Post: “We’re not too far off. Something has just got to click for us.
“Hopefully he (Smith) finds the keys to unlock it.
“As a group, we feel like we’ve been close but we’ve probably felt like that all year to be honest.
“We’ve lost some close games and unfortunately it’s put us down the bottom now and there’s no two ways about it: we are in a relegation battle.
“London have just beaten Saints so that’s more pressure on us and Leeds got a good win at Wakey so the pressure is on.
“We have another 12 games and we have to start winning.”
Rovers – who host high-flying Warrington Wolves on Saturday –have prospered just once in their last seven league outings but Drinkwater realises the Wigan defeat was yet another game they could easily have won.
On his missed drop goal, the former Catalans Dragons star said: “It was a tough kick but there’s no excuses.
“Powell put one over from the same distance.
“It was into the wind for me so it was tough but I have got to kick those.
“I put my hand up there.
“We had opportunities throughout the game to score some more tries, though.”
Rovers were 14-6 down at the break having crucially conceded two tries in quick succession just before the interval.
They fought back to lead heading into the final quarter while they also turned down the chance to attempt a drop goal when the game was tied 18-18 following Liam Marshall’s 65th-minute try for the visitors.
“I set up for one but was on the wrong side of the posts,” explained Drinkwater, who had rookie Will Dagger alongside him in the halves after Danny McGuire strained a calf in their final practice session.
“I’m a left-footer and they came out of the line so I just tried to get the ball in the in-goal and get a repeat set.
“But they ended up getting a penalty as we were caught offside so, instead of us getting the ball back and another six on their line, they marched downfield, get two penalties and that was a big call in the game.
“It’s always disappointing and that try just before half-time killed us. We came back, played some good footy but in the end it was a drop-goal that won it.
“Unfortunately it’s still a lost two points and it puts a bit more pressure on us now.”
Drinkwater described the week as a “rollercoaster” after Sheens’ sacking was first reported on Monday but did not actually occur until Wednesday, Smith’s appointment confirmed the following day.
“Tim was obviously in earlier in the week and we all read the stuff on Twitter and we all saw he might be going – he is leaving, not leaving,” said the player, who turns 27 on Saturday.
“But at the end of the day, it’s a game of footy and, for us as players, nothing really changed.
“We had a good gameplan, were confident we could win and obviously Tony has his hands on us now. He sort of just observed last week and put a couple of little touches on a couple of our plays but not too much.
“We’ll get a full week with Tony for next week. It’s a tough one with Warrington again but we need to start winning.”
Drinkwater thought they could have done more after Wigan’s former England full-back Zak Hardaker failed to return for the second period due to injury.
“In the first half we were a little bit clunky,” said the former Leigh and London playmaker.
“Wigan are a good team – they are a good defensive team. They lost Hardaker who’s very good for them and probably the best defensive full-back in the comp’.
“He’s good at getting the line set, so that was a difference for them, but we still got beat and have to get going again for Wolves.”