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Rugby League: Rovers come up short

Warrington Wolves 40 – 26 Hull KR (Saturday April 14)

Having already had to deal with the losses of Thomas Minns and Tommy Lee on the morning of the game, the last thing Rovers needed was more injuries, so the sight of skipper Shaun Lunt holding his knee just 85 seconds into the game was the worst possible start for the Robins.

Despite that early blow, the Red and Whites regrouped, using the ball smartly and drawing penalties from the home side’s defence through some smart footwork at the line. A high tackle by Tyrone Roberts on a dancing Adam Quinlan allowed Ryan Shaw to open the scoring with an angled penalty, but another spell of pressure soon after was repelled by the Wolves’ defence before they went on the offensive.

Ben Currie’s kick through deflected off Danny Tickle and straight into Bryson Goodwin’s hands. The centre sent Tom Lineham steaming towards the corner, but a fantastic covering tackle from Quinlan, Shaw and Danny McGuire put the winger over the sideline.

The Warrington pressure continued to build though, and five consecutive sets on Rovers’ line finally resulted in points after Goodwin and Currie were denied in quick succession. Chris Atkin beat Roberts to a Kevin Brown chip but the Wolves finally broke through when Mike Cooper was able to stretch over from close range.

The home side immediately doubled up when consecutive penalties helped them down the field and into position for Brown’s short ball to put Jack Hughes over, with Stefan Ratchford converting both.

The Robins finally got their hands on the ball after nine sets of continuous defence, but their break was only a brief one as another penalty put them back on the attack and Brown’s flat pass sent Currie over.

Rovers were beginning to run short of troops, with Rob Mulhern and Ben Kavanagh both undergoing head-tests, but James Donaldson’s break almost put Chris Atkin in for a try after the back-rower collected a Sitaleki Atauola fumble, only for Josh Charnley to get back and force him to lose the ball.

A Quinlan grubber close to the line was cut off by Goodwin, who broke downfield only to be run down by Nick Scruton as the Robins battled to stay in touch with their hosts. However their resistance was finally broken on the stroke of half-time when Roberts’ cross-kick was palmed back by Charnley. Junior Vaivai looked to have clearly grounded the ball in-goal, but referee Jack Smith overruled his touch judge and awarded a try to Hughes, sending the Wolves into the break firmly on top.

Rovers seemed to benefit from the chance to regroup at half-time though, as they came out all guns blazing after the restart.

Atkin’s high kick was allowed to bounce by a hesitant Ratchford, and Maurice Blair raced through to snap up possession and sprint away to score under the posts.

Five minutes later, the Robins were over again as they built pressure on the hosts’ line before a Danny McGuire grubber deflected up off a Warrington foot. Ben Westwood couldn’t reel the ball in and Donaldson showed great hands to pluck it out of the air and touch down.

The travelling Rovers fans could sense a famous comeback might be on the cards, and two minutes later the Red and Whites were in again when debutant Junior Vaivai showed his great footwork to carve through some loose marker defence and tear into the backfield. Atkin scampered up in support to take his pass and dart over, and with Shaw’s three conversions, Rovers were suddenly back within two points of the Wolves.

The home crowd were stunned, and as Warrington looked to build a response, the Robins dug in in defence. McGuire showed his experience with a well-judged covering tackle on Goodwin and Justin Carney chopped down Charnley as the winger broke away, but as the contest moved into the final quarter, Rovers were struggling for physicality and energy.

Mulhern returned having passed his head-test in the first half, but only in time to see Lineham burrow over from a Goodwin offload.

That opened the floodgates for the Robins, as Currie’s offload deflected off Danny Tickle and into Ratchford’s hands for a simple try, then as McGuire looked to kept the ball alive on the last tackle, Goodwin broke away and the ball was kept alive for Ryan Atkins to score.

Rovers could have buckled, but instead they dug deep and had the last word when McGuire dummied and sneaked over from close range for a try converted by Shaw.

Hull KR: 1. Adam Quinlan; 5. Ryan Shaw, 22. Liam Salter, 2. Junior Vaivai, 36. Justin Carney; 7. Danny McGuire, 24. Chris Atkin; 21. Rob Mulhern, 9. Shaun Lunt, 10. Mose Masoe; 11. Maurice Blair, 34. Danny Tickle, 13. Ben Kavanagh.

Subs: 8. Nick Scruton, 20. Matty Marsh, 12. James Greenwood, 15. James Donaldson.

Tries: Blair (42), Donaldson (47), Atkin (49), McGuire (75)

Goals: Shaw 5/5

Attendance: 9,305

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