Hull KR bounced back from their defeat at Warrington to beat the London Broncos 22-12 at KCOM Craven Park.
Tim Sheens’ side trailed 6-4 at half-time but three tries in the second half gave the Robins back-to-back home wins to start their season while London suffered their second successive away defeat after losing 24-0 at Salford.
Rovers started brightly and registered the game’s first try in the fourth minute following a London error 15 metres from their own line. Kane Linnett spun his way over the whitewash with two Broncos trying unsuccessfully to stop him. Josh Drinkwater’s conversion hit the left hand upright to leave Rovers leading 4-0.
It was a short-lived lead as the visitors responded quickly with a ninth-minute try. James Cunningham broke a tackle and sent second rower Matthew Gee over for the score. Kieran Dixon’s conversion gave the Broncos a 6-4 lead.
An incorrect play-the-ball by London in the 30th minute 10 metres from their own line went unpunished as a forward pass on the first tackle from the resulting penalty halted the home side’s attack. It was a passage of play that summed up the first half as neither side handled the ball well and came up with unforced errors close to the opposition’s try line.
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Rovers came close to ending the first half with a try when Danny McGuire’s grubber kick two minutes before half-time was fumbled by Junior Vaivai in the in-goal area with team-mate Linnett going for the same ball.
Hull KR regained the lead three minutes into the second half when Mitch Garbutt powered his way over the line from McGuire’s pass close to the Broncos line. Drinkwater made no mistake with the conversion to give his side a 10-6 lead.
It was soon followed by Rovers’ third try of the game with Craig Hall this time going over after Vaivai’s pass created the opening for the winger to score. Hall took the conversion instead of Drinkwater and sent the kick through the posts to extend the home side’s lead to 16-6.
Mose Masoe played a bit part in Rovers’ fourth try in the 55th minute with a great offload to the supporting Garbutt who stretched the ball over the try line for his second score of the game. Hall again added the extras to extend Rovers’ advantage to 22-6.
Eloi Pelissier was shown a yellow card for his high tackle on Rovers full-back Will Dagger who was trying to gather the restart but Sheens’ side failed to make their extra man pay during the 10 minutes the Frenchman was in the sin bin.
On his return to the action, Pelissier almost created a try for Will Lovell, but the Broncos’ second row forward was unable to ground the hooker’s kick cleanly.
The last score went to London with seven minutes remaining. Jordan Abdull’s kick through bounced kindly for Jay Pitts to ground the ball for the visitors’ second try of the game. Dixon’s conversion left the final score 22-12.
Hull KR ensured they will be playing in the Super League in 2019 after racing to a 30-0 win over already relegated Widnes at KCOM Craven Park.
Rovers had it wrapped up at half-time when they raced to a 20-0 lead in a game where they needed to win by 14 points to beat Toronto to third place in the Qualifiers going into their final Super 8s match.
It means Toronto will be at home to London Broncos in next Sunday’s Million Pound Game to determine the 12th and final place in Super League for 2019, with the Rugby Football League confirming both clubs are eligible for promotion.
Victory provided a timely pick-me-up for ailing Rovers captain Shaun Lunt, who remains hospitalised with an infection, while a sixth defeat in seven matches meant a disappointing end for Widnes duo Chris Houston and Aaron Heremaia as they entered retirement after the final whistle.
Interim head coach Francis Cummins is facing an uncertain future but the Vikings will have the services of a crop of promising youngsters like Owen Buckley, Joe Lyons and Keanan Brand, who all showed up well in the final game, as well as a £500,000 parachute payment, to help them regroup in the Championship.
Rovers, promoted 12 months ago without having to go through the Million-Pound Game, were desperate to secure survival without it, especially having experienced the heartbreak of defeat in 2016.
There was an early sign of nerves when second-rower Joel Tomkins took a McGuire pass to reach the line only to lose control of the ball and Rovers suffered a blow when stand-off Todd Carney went off on six minutes after taking a heavy blow.
But the versatile Maurice Blair, back in action earlier than expected from a calf injury, slotted effortlessly into the half-back role alongside the influential McGuire as the Robins set about their task in earnest.
McGuire’s short pass got second-rower James Greenwood through a gaping hole in the Vikings defence for the game’s first try and centre Ben Crooks gathered his high kick to score his first try for the club.
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Craig Hall kicked both conversions and added a penalty to extend the lead to the required 14-0 with an hour left on the clock.
As the home side continued to make all the running, centre Junior Vaivai dropped Blair’s pass with the line beckoning but there was no stopping full-back Chris Atkin after McGuire had raced clear from Mose Masoe’s offload inside his own half.
Trailing 20-0 at the break, there was no way back for the visitors when Rovers created an overlap for Vaivai to go in for their fourth try on 57 minutes and Hall added another nine minutes later.
They might have scored more as Widnes’ performance disintegrated in the final quarter – they finished with 12 men after Tom Gilmore was sin-binned for dissent – but Tim Sheens’ men had long since ensured it was job done.
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