Hull KR go into the Challenge Cup Final against Leeds Rhinos as massive underdogs, but here are five ways they can cause an upset and lift the trophy for the first time in 35 years.
It may have been mind games employed by Chris Chester, or it may have genuinely been touch and go, but the half-back looks set to play against the Rhinos on Saturday.
The former Gold Coast Titan featured in eight of Rovers’ nine wins in the first phase of Super League, as well as three of the four victories in the cup that have taken the Robins to Wembley.
Kelly has notched up 15 tries from 20 Super League appearances as well as two in his three cup outings. His kicking game has been superb for Rovers this season – he makes the top 10 list for attacking kicks in Super League.
The 24 year-old helped lay on two tries in his last appearance – the semi-final win against Warrington, and his creativity will be needed if KR are to breach a Leeds defence that has conceded just 36 points in the tournament so far.
Providing Kelly is 100% he could cause the Rhinos all sorts of problems – he scored two tries against them on his debut on the opening round of the season.
Containing Cuthbertson & co
It is no secret that Leeds prop forward Adam Cuthbertson likes to throw the ball around. In his debut season the ex-Newcastle Knight has thrown 115 offloads in Super League – more than twice as many as any other player.
The 30 year-old has helped his side play a more expansive and attacking brand of rugby, with the Rhinos back line able to cause havoc to opposition defences off his good work.
Veteran Jamie Peacock is also in the top 10 Super League offloaders this season, which highlights how important the offload game is to the current cup holders.
Rovers front row has cannot allow the Rhinos forwards the chance to throw the ball around, however Chris Chester’s men haven’t looked to stable in defence – they have missed more tackles than any other team in Super League so far this season.
However, in their previous two outings the Robins leaked just 24 points, suggesting that they are tightening up in defence.
Ablett a weak link?
Back rower Carl Ablett may be worth having a run at on Saturday. The 29 year-old has missed more tackles than his team mates over the last two rounds in Super League.
In fact Ablett has missed just under 25% of his tackles against Hull FC and Wigan Warriors combined, so maybe Rovers attack will get some change out of him on Saturday.
Interestingly enough, Ablett missed the most tackles against the Robins the last time his side lost against tomorrow’s opponents and the second most in Rovers previous victory over Leeds.
Big game motivation
Rovers haven’t had the easiest route to the final, having faced Bradford and Wigan away, before seeing off Catalans at Craven Park and then beating Warrington at Headingley in the semi-final.
The 1980 winners have also beaten the Wolves and the Warriors in the league this season, as well as ending the then perfect record of St Helens in round seven.
Chester’s men have run the Rhinos close in their two meetings as well, so they won’t be overawed against them come Saturday afternoon.
According to the 36 year-old coach, 1980 cup-winning Rovers players have been giving motivational talks to the players before the quarter-finals and semi-finals and, given their success, the head coach has stuck with the speeches ahead of the final.
The Aussie has been superb all season long for the Robins, and was inspirational when scoring 14 points in the semi-final win over Warrington.
The 28 year-old has been in fine try scoring form this campaign, with 23 in league and cup, including four in his last three games.
His battle with Kallum Watkins should be a great watch in itself, but if the former Newcastle Knight can stymie the England international’s threat, Leeds’ attack will be blunted severely.
With 14 points against Leeds this season already, including a try against them in May, an on-song Mantellato might just be able to get the better of his advisory at Wembley and inspire his team mates to victory.