St Helens 34 Hull KR 28: Saints have last word after Rovers' brilliant comeback
A MAGNIFICENT fightback just failed to earn Hull KR the points in a thrilling clash with St Helens last night. Trailing 26-0 in the first half, KR led 28-26 heading into the final 10 minutes before two late Saints tries killed off their challenge.
Keen to bounce back from their home defeat at the hands of Catalan, Rovers faced a rapidly improving Saints side including evergreen Paul Wellens, who was making his 400th appearance for the hosts, but without one of their chief threats, Lance Hohaia.
KR themselves were denied the services of Kris Welham (broken leg), Dave Hodgson (calf) and Rhys Lovegrove (knee ligaments).
An early KR scrum put the hosts on the back foot before Shannon McDonnell was tackled into touch.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Saints’ speed and mobility were causing KR problems from the start and Jonny Lomax took full advantage, waltzing through a gaping hole after a pass from Jon Wilkin.
Tommy Makinson bagged the extras from in front of the posts to put the hosts 6-0 up after only six minutes.
It got worse for the visitors only four minutes later when Wellens went through a gap, this time the size of an eye of a needle, to make it 10-0, Makinson mercifully missing the kick.
Rovers had been breached twice in the opening stages and needed to find respite.
Keeping hold of the ball for six tackles would have been a start but such was Saints’ pressure, even this small achievement would have represented a milestone in the circumstances.
They were helped though, when referee Thierry Alibert gave them another six in the Saints’ 22, only for Graeme Horne to spill the ball and allow Saints to counter, Wellens going over for his second at the other end after 15 minutes.
Makinson this time kicked over and Rovers were facing a 16-0 deficit. Josh Jones then got in on the act for hosts, racing onto Wilkin’s clever kick to score.
Another Makinson kick made it 22-0 with barely a quarter of the game gone and Rovers yet to mount a worthwhile attack.
It could hardly get worse but after 24 minutes it did as a rare Rovers’ attack was stopped in its tracks and a length-of-the-field move with Tony Puletua at its heart ended with Jones making the final yards to the line. Makinson’s missed kick left it 26-0.
Rovers’ needed to find inspiration from somewhere and Scott Taylor finally got points on the board after 28 minutes. The boot of Michael Dobson did the rest and KR had made their presence felt at last.
A score of 28-6 meant the Robins needed to score again before the break for a timely psychological boost.
And having improved their handling and showed their intent at last, Craig Sandercock’s men were giving as good as they were getting by the half-hour mark.
Another four points from Sam Latus took Rovers to the 10-point mark and that was enough to signal game on.
Two minutes from the break and Latus took a difficult pass from Josh Hodgson to close the gap further to 26-16, when Dobson’s kick deflected over after hitting a post.
Robins’ coach Sandercock would have wanted his side to retain their momentum into the second half and so it proved as the Robins were instantly on the offensive.
Saints were looking rattled and when Makinson was tackled short of the hosts’ own try-line, Rovers had the initiative before Mickey Paea spilled a relatively straightforward catch.
Still, Rovers continued to battle and the traffic was all one-way towards the home side’s try line.
It really was game on by this stage with Rovers well in the arm-wrestle, despite their start.
The next score was going to be crucial and it was Rovers who got it when Taylor grabbed his second of the night with half an hour still to play.
Dobson’s kick made it 26-22, a staggering scoreline considering the start the Robins had inflicted on them. Rovers had scored 22 unanswered points in a famous comeback and were looking by far the strongest side on a now-drenched Langtree Park.
Saints had barely threatened the KR line in the second half, long kicks relieving the danger on the hosts’ line.
Another set of six in sight of the Saints’ line with just 21 minutes to go provided the incentive for the visitors to inflict further damage.
And when Hodgson ran onto Dobson’s clever kick, Rovers were at last level, Dobson nudging them in front 28-26 with his fourth successful kick of an eventful night.
Saints’ fans were incensed but their anger was more at their team than Rovers’ momentous efforts, particularly when Blake Green saved a try with a magnificent tackle as Saints tried to claw their way back.
Saints had at last risen from their slumbers but Rovers were also digging in, keen to protect a lead they had fought so hard to get a hold of.
The pressure on the KR line was growing intolerable and with nine minutes to go Anthony Laffranchi breached the Robins line for the first time to put Saints 30-28 ahead, Makinson somehow missing the conversion.
Rovers were straight back on the attack but for once, Dobson’s kick was too strong and the pressure on Saints was relieved.
An unexpected knock-on took Rovers back into Saints’ territory before a Francis Meli run relieved the pressure for Puletua to go over and decide the game, breaking Rovers hearts after a thrilling contest.