St Helens 21 Hull KR 20: Outstanding Rovers miss out in Golden Point to champions

Hull KR's George Lawler (PIC: BRUCE ROLLINSON)Hull KR's George Lawler (PIC: BRUCE ROLLINSON)
Hull KR's George Lawler (PIC: BRUCE ROLLINSON)
IT is no surprise Hull KR are fast becoming people's second favourite team in Super League.

A week after stunning previous leaders Wigan Warriors with a scintillating display, they came close to producing the shock of this increasingly bizarre season tonight.

Brilliant Rovers - with young scrum-half Mikey Lewis excelling behind a grafting pack - had champions St Helens frantically battling to rescue a win and they needed Golden Point extra-time to do it.

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After Lachlan Coote saw one drop goal attempt sail marginally wide, Frenchman Theo Fages managed it with just 41 seconds of the first period remaining to send them back top.

Hull KR's Ethan Ryan scores his spectacular try (PIC: BRUCE ROLLINSON)Hull KR's Ethan Ryan scores his spectacular try (PIC: BRUCE ROLLINSON)
Hull KR's Ethan Ryan scores his spectacular try (PIC: BRUCE ROLLINSON)

But in between, Jordan Abdull, whose partnership with Lewis continues to blossom, got in range for KR.

Crucially, though, he opted to run on the last tackle and the bold move backfired. It is hard to complain.

Saints thought they had it won earlier having led 20-12 heading into the final four minutes but former Bradford Bulls winger Ethan Ryan came up with a spectacular finish in the corner.

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Will Dagger converted from the touchline to set up a dramatic finish.

Saints’ discipline disappeared, illustrated by Kevin Naiqama producing a needless swinging arm on Kane Linnett that rightly saw the Fijian centre sin-binned.

It also gifted Dagger a shot at goal and - from a difficult angle with barely 60 seconds remaining - the young full-back nailed it.

It is remarkable that Rovers had any energy left to finish the game - let alone battle on into that added period - given the immense defensive effort Smith’s side had put on in the first half.

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At one point, the six-again hooter was going off so often it seemed to be making its own little tune.

Nevertheless, for all they were faced with tides and tides of red and whire pressure, Rovers remained utterly unfazed.

With remarkable energy and strength, and no little organisation, they repelled Saints time after time.

Even when Jonny Lomax finally got over, the England stand-off was pulled back for ‘crossing’ in the build-up; even this brilliant side were running out of ideas, Lachlan Coote’s eighth minute penalty their only semblance of a breakthrough.

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And then, with wonderful simplicity, Tony Smith’s side scored with only their second genine attack.

It came as late as the 24th minute and saw Jordan Abdull’s perfectly delayed pass create a gaping hole for Dean Hadley to scramble through untouched.

Dagger converted and suddenly Saints - for all their dead ends, so crisp and rapid early on - started to err, Jack Welsby spilling Abdull’s spiralling kick and James Bentley coughing up, too.

Rovers could not capitalise, though, so when Matt Parcell’s offload in his own half went awry, they went behind when Lomax finally found enough space to send Regan Grace over in the 33rd minute and Coote improved.

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It was Coote, the skilled Australian full-back who remains one of Super League’s most influential players, who fired a splendid cut-out pass for Welsby to dive over at the start of the second period.

Typically, he also converted from the touchline but it did not initiate any sort of points avalanche; this gutsy Rovers side has proved many times before it does not capitulate.

Instead, they hit back as Shaun Kenny-Dowall rose high to challenge Grace for Mikey Lewis’ lofted chip and got to the loose ball first.

Dagger did the rest to leave his side trailing just 14-12 and the relief in the Saints ranks was palpable when England prop Alex Walmsley came back on to barge over from close range on the hour.

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The champions needed some breathing space. They only got it at the very end.

St Helens: Coote; Welsby, Naiqama, Simm, Grace; Lomax, Fages; Walmsley, Roby, Graham, Taia, Bentley, Knowles. Substitutes: Peyroux, Lees, Amor, Smith.

Hull KR: Dagger; Ryan, Kenny-Dowall, Linnett,, Minikin; Abdull, Lewis; Hauraki, Litten, Lawler, Storton, Hadley, Minchella. Substitutes: Parcel, Murray, Garbutt, Peteru.

Referee: Jack Smith (Wigan)

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