Wigan Warriors 30 Hull KR 16 - Robins suffer four injuries in defiant stand at Wigan

IF HULL KR were awarded points for sheer character and spirit - and especially holding opponents up over the goalline - they would most likely be top of Super League.

However, unfortunately for Tony Smith’s gutsy side, that is not the case as they suffered a fifth straight defeat.

With too many deficiencies in other areas of their game, it means they remain with just a solitary victory this term and too close to the bottom for comfort.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Yet how they battled here against all odds to truly test Wigan Warriors for the majority of an entertaining contest.

Wigan warriors Jackson Hastings scores during the Betfred Super League match at DW Stadium, Wigan. (Richard Sellers/PA Wire)

Approaching the hour mark they only trailed 18-16 despite missing eight injured-first-teamers and witnessing another FOUR either limp off or be nursed out of action.

Matty Storton, one of four Robins players who came this term from Championship Bradford Bulls, departed with an ankle injury in the 27th minute.

That came from a Ben Flower challenge that was put on report, Robins captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall arguing to referee Tom Grant that it was an illegal ‘cannonball tackle’.

Half-back Joe Keyes was led off five minutes into the second period with an AC/sternum injury that resulted from a late hit on the former Bradford half-back.

Wigan Warriors' Liam Farrell scores against Hull KR during the Betfred Super League match (Richard Sellers/PA Wire)

Moments later, ex-Halifax prop Will Maher hobbled off with another ankle issue to leave the visitors with just one fit interchange for the remaining 33 minutes.

Yet as Maher limped to the sideline, Rovers scrum-half Ryan Brierley picked up a loose ball to race 80m for a dazzling score that left them just two points adrift.

Given those injuries - England prop Robbie Mulhern was the fourth to depart in the closing stages with a knee issue - it was inevitable, Wigan would eventually wear them down.

Sam Powell and Liam Marshall added tries to ease the pressure and take the hosts two points clear at the top of Super League.

Still, amid all the carnage, the Robins continued to threaten, winger Greg Minikin having two efforts disallowed for forward passes which looked marginal at first glance.

If they carry on playing with such character and energy, it is hard to envisage wins not coming soon especially with their inspirational captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall consistently leading from the front.

Three times Wigan players seemed all but certain to score in the first half alone yet on each occasion the depleted Robins somehow prevented them.

Sam Powell was left frustrated and then, moments before the interval, Bevan French and Dom Manfredi were both also denied in the same set.

That meant Rovers - who have not won since the opening night against Wakefield Trinity - remained in the contest, trailing just 18-12.

Wigan have so many dangerous players, though, Australian full-back French at his piercing best at times and Jackson Hastings determined to prove a point to England coach Shaun Wane while Liam Farrell was outstanding.

Smith sprang a surprise by playing back-row Elliot Minchella at hooker. However, the 24-year-old former Bradford player looked the part with a number of sniping runs while also stiffening up their middle which had been so brittle in defeat to Castleford Tigers.

One of those other erstwhile Bulls players was Ethan Ryan, who enjoyed an excellent start to life in Super League, scoring the game’s first try in the 13th minute.

He showed great anticipation to palm down French’s long pass and then supported after Brierley raced upfield.

Brierley slotted the first of his two kicks but Man of Steel Hastings hit straight back when dummying over.

KR knew they had to complete at a high percentage but Harvey Livett spilled coming out of his own end, leading to tireless second-row Farrell surging over to celebrate his England recall at the age of 29.

But Marshall, who scored a hat-trick in the win at Huddersfield last Sunday, spilled Keyes’ crossfield kick to gift Minikin a try as the visitors refused to yield.

They had no answer for Wigan’s next score, though, as French returned Jordan Abdull’s kick by selling Kenny-Dowall an outrageous dummy before showing startling acceleration to turn Rovers inside out and send Hastings over for his second try.

Wigan made the most of Rovers injury issues in the second period and now Smith must try and work out who has left fit and able for a tricky Challenge Cup tie against Championship leaders Leigh Centurions next Sunday.

Captain Weller Hauraki, Adam Quinlan and Dean Hadley possibly could return.

Wigan Warriors: French; Manfrfeid, Hardaker, Bibby, Marshall; Leuluai, Hastings; Partington, Powell, Byrne, Isa, Farrell, Smithies. Substitutes: Burgess, Flower, Havard, Smith.

Hull KR: Dagger; Minikin, Kenny-Doawll, Linnett, Ryan; Keyes, Brierley; Mulhern, Minchella, Lawler, Livett, Storton, Gee. Substitutes: Abdull, Murray, Litten, Maher.

Referee: Tom Grant (Leeds)