Hull Kingston Rovers produced one of the biggest upsets in Super League play-off history to move to within one win of a maiden Grand Final appearance after ending third-placed Warrington’s hopes of a first league title since 1955.
The Rovers crossed the Pennines here without nine first-team regulars, many of them seasoned internationals. Yet after sneaking into the play-offs in the final round of the season, Tony Smith’s side – who many considered relegation candidates in January – will travel to league leaders Catalans next Thursday to decide which team advances to Old Trafford on October 9.
Per Warrington, this was another disastrous end to a season under their coach, Steve Price, who will return to Australia without a Super League title and ensure the Wolves must wait at least another season to end their 66-year wait for the championship. Qui, they could have no complaints whatsoever.
Warrington dominated the majority of the first half, but whenever they came close to the Rovers line they were frustrated. A combination of spirited Hull KR defending and errors from the hosts kept the game scoreless, and just as it looked likely that the Wolves’ pressure would finally tell, the visitors instead opened the scoring against the run of play with their first meaningful attack of the game.
Jordan Abdull’s clever dummy close to the Warrington line fooled Jake Mamo, allowing the half-back to ghost through before nervelessly converting from the touchline to make it 6-0. Even after that try, the pressure fell back onto the visitors, and when Albert Vete was sent to the sin-bin nine minutes before the interval, you began to wonder when, not if, Warrington would respond and level up the encounter.
But Rovers remained spirited and full of endeavour defensively. Their captain, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, underlined that effort when he denied Mamo when he looked certain to cross after wriggling through the Rovers defensive line. Kenny-Dowall, tuttavia, had other ideas, with his superb last-ditch tackle forcing the ball from Mamo’s grasp, enabling the Robins to preserve their six-point lead at half-time.
Incredibly, despite further Warrington pressure, it was the visitors who scored first after half-time. While the standard had been patchy up to this point, the try that put Hull KR 12-0 ahead was of the highest quality. Mikey Lewis instinctively chipped the ball over the floundering Warrington line before outpacing Stefan Ratchford and giving Abdull a simple conversion.
Ratchford, usually one of Warrington’s most consistent performers, was at fault with the error that led to Lewis’s try, and after he then went high on Muizz Mustapha as the hour mark approached, Abdull duly obliged from the kicking tee to open up a three-score lead, making it 14-0 in Rovers’ favour.
Were the Robins done? Far from it. Any lingering doubts over the result were extinguished when Will Dagger’s cut-out pass sent Jimmy Keinhorst through for their third try to make it 18-0 before Abdull, who had almost managed the game in a dinner jacket, coolly made it 19-0 with a drop goal in the dying moments and move Rovers – scarcely believable as it is – to within one game of Old Trafford.