Hull KR (Kingstown Rovers) defeated Warrington 19-0 in a complete display to book their spot in the Super League semi-finals.
In an unexpected result that went against the form, the playing rotas, and the club resources, the men from East Hull are now just 80 minutes from Old Trafford. 2021 represents Hull KR’s best play-off run since their appearance in the 1985 Premiership final.
Hull KR silence doubters with emphatic win over Warrington Wire
After coming under pressure for the opening 10 minutes, they fought their way into the game and came to dominate proceedings. A well-worked try for Jordan Abdull on their left gave them the lead at half-time. The half-back was assured throughout and orchestrated proceedings with aplomb in the second half.
Mikey Lewis fashioned himself a fantastic individual try, chipping over the Warrington defense on 48 minutes to score in front of the thousands of travelling fans. For such a young prospect, he demonstrated great game maturity in noting Stefan Ratchford’s positioning in the defensive line rather than deeper in the typical full-back area.
The game got away from Warrington when Hull KR once again engineered a move on their left, overloading the play to put in Jimmy Keinhorst. An Abdull drop-goal took the game beyond reproach, capping a well-organized, dominant display in a riveting match.
Hull KR 19 – Tries: Abdull, Lewis, Keinhorst; Conversions: Abdull (3); Drop-Goals: Abdull
— Hull KR (@hullkrofficial) September 25, 2021
Riveting Rovers impress in deserved Victory
The journey from wooden spooners to play-off contenders in one year is remarkable. Some sour grapes may emanate from Castleford over the points per game calculations to determine league standings. But Hull KR deserved their spot, and they deserved victory against Warrington.
They have a solid core of young players to back up an experience, battle-hardened squad. Players like Mickey Lewis (see above image), and Muizz Mustapha performed excellently – all the more remarkable considering the absence of several seasoned professionals.
That they played so well without the likes of Matt Parcell, Ryan Hall, and Greg Minikin will prove grounds for optimism going into next season – regardless of how this year transpires. Captain fantastic Shaun Kenny-Dowall looks every part the leader, bringing out the best of those around him.
The knowledge that this team could outperform Warrington; a club with far greater resources at their disposal, will also be heartening. After years of lower mid-table languishing, the club seems genuinely committed to pushing on and claiming their place at the business end of Super League.
From bottom of the table in 2020, to 80 minutes from Old Trafford in 2021 👏🔥
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) September 24, 2021
Hull KR has undergone a plush rebrand (one that stays true to the club’s history and identity). One that has been combined with a fresh move to attract more fans with an improved gameday experience – whisper it, but it somewhat resembles the fun from Toronto during their time in the professional game.
Neil Hudgell has committed himself once again, sensibly spending within his means but offering the hope of continued improvement. They are looking to develop their community work and upgrade their stadium with the help of a £250,000 Rugby League World Cup grant.
With the imminent purchase of Craven Park, and with it the chance to maximize retail, corporate and non-matchday revenue, everything bodes well for the Robins.
Always their year; just like the last one
For Warrington, the inquest begins. Steve Price returns to Australia after four years to reassume his assistantship Cronulla, and questions as to his value and legacy abound. Wrongly or rightly, after two final defeats in his debut season, the one saving grace is that Price helped secured a memorable Challenge Cup triumph in 2019.
But in many cases, it feels like a club stagnating. The 55 years wait for ultimate glory goes on, and with each passing season, it becomes a heavier burden on the incumbent. That Price’s men came apart at the hands of his predecessor only serves to amplify the sense of futility.
Whoever takes over will need to ensure that they can break the established order (as Catalans have done). It will probably take a period of at least three years, and even then there are no guarantees.
Kevin Brown, in his Sky analysis, identified some of the disparities within the side. Warrington is replete with talented ballplayers, but lack tough, battle-ready individuals doing the dirty work and covering the hard yards.
The decision not to play Blake Austin might have made sense if Price rebalanced the side with greater physicality. But Chris Hill cannot do it all by himself. The key will be bringing in players with the ability of Ratchford, Jake Mamo, George Williams, and Gareth Widdop, but who do the undignified, ‘dirty’ parts of the game.
Hull KR ‘bobbing’ to Perpignan
For now, Hull KR can celebrate all along the M62. But they face an even sterner test against Catalans Dragons on Thursday. Scheduled to be played at a sold-out Stade Gilbert Brutus, the shame of it is but ‘only a handful of away fans’ can attend. In a game against the League Leaders – to whom they’ve already lost twice this season – it will be a tough ask. Some might expect a French domination, though Hull KR will not go down lightly.
A brand new Grand Finalist 💪
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) September 25, 2021
But the pre-match predictions against Warrington also had Rovers unfancied. It will be tough, undoubtedly, but, they’ve come very close against Catalans before. They recorded an epic come-back on the opening day, only to lose to a James Maloney golden-point defeat.
However this semi-final game plays out, Hull KR can be proud of their efforts against Warrington and, throughout the 2021 Betfred Super League season. It heralds the dawn of a brighter future, both on and off the pitch for the Robins.
“Main photo credit”
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