DESPITE missing the services of Culburra Dolphins product Adam Quinlan [injured], Hull Kingston Rovers have retained their spot in the English Super League, thanks to a clinical display against the Widnes Vikings.
Chasing the magic figure of a 14-point wining margin, the Robins almost opened the scoring inside the first 3 minutes when Danny McGuire’s flat pass sent Joel Tomkins crashing over.
However referee Chris Kendall ruled the back-rower had failed to ground the ball cleanly and chalked off the score.
Rovers were forced into a reshuffle soon after when Todd Carney succumbed to a rib injury following a big collision with Chris Houston.
That brought Maurice Blair into the action in the halves and the opening try of the day soon followed when another short ball from McGuire sent James Greenwood strolling over.
Craig Hall converted, and the Red and Whites were soon over again after a big kick-return from Will Oakes got them on the front foot.
The young winger made 20 metres with three defenders on him to get the set started, and on the last play, McGuire’s perfectly-placed chip was plucked out of the air by Ben Crooks for his first try in red and white.
Hall made no mistake with the conversion, and five minutes later he added a penalty goal after Chris Dean was penalised for holding down Greenwood.
The Robins’ tails were up, and another strong run down the middle from Oakes soon had the Vikings scrambling again.
Blair summed up the situation perfectly, sneaking down the short side on the next play before looping a lovely ball over the top, but a stretching Junior Vaivai couldn’t reel the pass in.
Having been under pressure on their own line for the majority of the opening quarter, Widnes were still looking dangerous with ball in-hand.
Tom Gilmore’s bomb was brilliantly collected and offloaded by Owen Buckley, and after Dean hacked the ball on, it took a superb chase from Hall to beat the Vikings man to the ball and flick it dead.
That was a warning shot for the Robins and after some big defence from Atkin and Tommy Lee forced Jay Chapelhow to cough up the ball five metres from Rovers’ line, the Red and Whites responded in the perfect manner.
A big run from Mose Masoe skittled Ted Chapelhow, allowing the big man to slip the ball out of a two-man tackle and release McGuire, and Atkin was on his shoulder to scamper in under the posts.
Hall converted to send Rovers into the break 20 points to the good, but the first score of the second period was going to be crucial with the Robins working with a 14-point margin in mind.
Both sides looked rather scratchy in the early exchanges, and a couple of forward pass calls against the visitors saved the Robins as their slender advantage creaked.
But at the midway point of the half, the Red and Whites turned on the style with some lovely hands down their left edge and Blair combined with Atkin to send Vaivai charging over out wide.
Hall’s touchline conversion bounced off the upright, leaving Rovers’ cushion at just ten points, but their effort and physicality in defence was rewarded soon after when an untidy pass saw the outstanding Nick Scruton charged with finding a last-tackle play.
His high kick might have scored low on style points, but it allowed Hall to wrap up Buckley, and together with a posse of chasers, the winger was driven over the sideline.
That led to a second penalty goal from Hall, and four minutes later strong defence from Scruton and Chris Clarkson forced a Widnes error, and set up the position for quick hands to send Hall diving in at the corner.
The margin of victory still could have been more, as some Harlem Globetrotter stuff from Scruton and McGuire put Tomkins over again, only for the forward to again spill the ball, but it didn’t matter as the Robins finished comfortable winners to secure Super League rugby for 2019.
“It was a good emphatic win but it still had my heart going with 15 minutes to go,” Rovers coach Tim Sheens said.
“They kept me on my toes.
“But right now I am absorbing the fact we have survived and it is going to be a much more pleasant presentation night this week than it would have been.
“You are talking about your livelihood and the livelihood of the club.
You can lose a grand final and not have as much stress as that – fortunately, we got through.”