Hull KR: Five areas for improvement in Super League 2013
Charlie Mullan pinpoints where Hull Kingston Rovers must do better in order to reach the play-offs.
Tighten up in defence
IF Rovers are to improve on last season they have to make teams work hard for every point they get. Teams didn't have to do too much to make breaks against the Robins last year and those breaks inevitably led to points.
Missed tackles were a curse for Craig Sandercock's side with an average of 27 missed per match. That put them alongside Widnes and London, who finished bottom and third from bottom.
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Don't forget, Rovers lost nine games by six points or less. If they had made more tackles, they could have won more of those close games and made the play-offs.
To mix it alongside Wigan and Leeds, tackles have to stick.
No doubt Sandercock will have addressed that in pre-season, but improvements have to be evident right from the first game against Catalan on February 3.
Rovers have lost some experienced players in the off-season which means Ryan O'Hara, Rhys Lovegrove and Mickey Paea are going to have to marshal the middle and make sure teams hit a brick wall when they try to run at them.
Sandercock introduced new systems last season and maybe that was why Rovers didn't defend well. But they cannot afford to have a repeat.
Playing against the top teams is hard enough without making it easier for them by slipping off tackles to create chances for others to capitalise on.
Get up for derbies
IN all three derbies, Rovers were outplayed, except for a 13-minute spell at the Etihad Stadium where they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
While that 32-30 win sent Rovers back across the M62 delirious, it papered over the cracks.
Rovers were poor in all three derbies. There was very little passion shown and that's a crime which cannot be committed again. Fans demand to see passion when it comes to facing the old enemy.
With Travis Burns in their squad this season, they should have somebody who will be able to fire up the players around them.
Burns spent last season playing with Clint Newton, who revelled in winding up Hull, and Burns must follow in his footsteps.
Kill games off
TEAMS that do well in Super League are the ones that have the ability to close games out from winning positions.
Rovers were guilty of throwing away wins when they had games all-but won.
Against Bradford in round six, Rovers held a commanding 24-8 lead with 25 minutes to play. Instead of killing the game off by using the last tackle to kick the ball out of bounds deep in Bradford territory, they kept the ball in play. This invited the Bulls back into the game and their off-the-cuff approach ripped Rovers apart to score 28 unanswered points to win 36-24.
The only thing worse than blowing a 16-point lead is letting a 28-point lead slip against Wigan in the penultimate game of the season.
Rovers' fans were pinching themselves when they led 28-0 against the league leaders with half-time approaching. But two tries in the final five minutes before half-time changed the game. Teams should not let a 28-point lead slip, regardless of who the opposition may be.
Sandercock will have learned a lot from those games and he won't want to see a repeat this season.
Learn to beat the big guns
ROVERS only recorded two wins from 12 games against the sides occupying the top six places.
One of those was from a Michael Dobson drop-goal against Warrington and the other was courtesy of Dave Hodgson's last-gasp try against Hull at the Etihad.
However, they can point to matches against Wigan, St Helens, Catalan and Leeds where they could and should have won.
Failure to do so meant the gap between KR and the top six widened.
If they can find a way of turning that sequence around they will be in a much healthier position. Rovers worked hard to get themselves into winning positions against those sides, but a failure to concentrate and play for the full 80 minutes meant the two points went begging.
Sandercock's side have a great opportunity to address that at the start of the season against Catalan, who will be without scrum-half Scott Dureau after the play-maker had a tumour removed from behind his eye.
It's an opportunity to make the most of a favourable-looking start to the season for the Robins.
If they can get a win against the Dragons at MS3 Craven Park, it will give them some early momentum to carry into the games against Wakefield, Widnes and Salford before Burns makes his Rovers debut against Warrington in round five.
IF Rovers are to achieve their goals this season, they must improve their discipline.
Every side is guilty of conceding penalties, but it's important where and when you do it. Last season, Rovers conceded the most penalties through offside, ball stealing and not playing the ball properly.
Ball stealing comes down to the referee's interpretation, but the other two are down to players and their laziness.
It comes down to self discipline and not trying to cut corners.
Is it really worth trying to steal half a metre and giving away a penalty that means you and your team have to defend another set much closer to your try-line?
As for not playing the ball properly, that is just unforgivable. Eight teams managed to get through the campaign without a penalty against them for this. But Rovers were called for it three times. That immediately takes the sting out of your team's attack while letting the opposition off the hook in the process.
Games can turn on situations like that. The coach can drill the players as much as he likes during the week, but it's down to the 17 to make sure they don't shoot themselves in the foot with sloppy incidents. It may not seem like much but the top teams ensure the little one per cent plays are done properly which leads to a better all-round game.
If Rovers can sort these shoddy pieces of play out, they will give themselves the best chance possible of winning more games.