Hull KR triumphed over relegated Widnes to secure a second successive season in Super League. Here’s our verdict…
Rovers went into the final match of the Qualifiers needing a winning margin of 14 points or greater to overtake Toronto in third spot and, with acting captain Danny McGuire setting a prime example, they had the two points wrapped up by the interval, when they led 20-0.
The Robins had let a 19-0 lead slip against Toulouse last weekend, but this result was never in doubt and the hosts simply got better in the second half.
Their large victory leaves Toronto in fourth position and they will therefore meet London Broncos in next Sunday’s Million Pound Game in Canada as the two clubs face off to determine the final place in Super League for 2019, with the RFL ruling both clubs eligible for promotion.
KR were promoted 12 months ago without having to go through the Million Pound Game, and must be delighted to avoid it again having experienced the heartbreak of defeat in 2016.
The victory was made even more impressive considering the absence of talismanic captain, Shaun Lunt who remains hospitalised with an infection, albeit in improving condition. Even though their star man was sidelined, the East Hull side totally dominated proceedings against a weakened and inexperienced Widnes outfit.
For Widnes, however, a sixth defeat from their last seven matches spells a sad end for duo Chris Houston and Aaron Heremaia; both retiring at the season’s end.
After Todd Carney went off on six minutes after taking a heavy blow, there were early sign of nerves as Joel Tomkins lost his grip on ball when agonizingly close to the line, but the home side were in no mood to pass up any further chances.
Danny McGuire’s short pass enabled James Greenwood to burst through a gaping hole in the Vikings’ defence for the first try of the match and Ben Crooks gathered a spiraling punt to record his maiden score for the club.
Craig Hall was in fine fettle, kicking both conversions before adding a penalty to extend the lead to the magic 14-0 margin with an hour still to play.
Chris Atkin then took over after McGuire had raced clear from Mose Masoe’s offload inside his own half and the hosts looked capable of hitting the fifty-point mark.
Down 20-0 at half time, there was no way back for the visitors. Especially when Rovers created an overlap out wide for Vaivai to go in for their fourth try just before the hour; Hall adding another less than ten minutes later.
As Widnes tired in the final quarter, KR should have crossed the whitewash numerous more times but Tim Sheens’ men had long since ensured it was job done and their Super League status remains for another year.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
KR perform when they need to
There have been numerous low points for Hull KR this season, but their never say die attitude is what has got them over the line in the end. After an injury-ravaged start to the campaign, various impressive performances (the victory over rivals FC in their own backyard spring to mind) gave them the confidence and belief to avoid the dreaded Million Pound Game. They should be easily safe next year.
Widnes need to start planning for the Championship
As in any sport, dropping out of the highest league is heartbreaking and ultimately very dangerous. If handled incorrectly, clubs can spiral downwards uncontrollably. However, Widnes don’t strike me as a club in crisis so I expect them to be fighting to regain their Super League status in 2019.
Man of the Match – Danny McGuire (Hull KR)
When you need someone to step up, call this man. The ex-Leeds player was electric from start to finish and orchestrated most positive attacking plays that Rovers put together. If they want to improve and push on next season, he will be key to that.
Hull KR 30
Tries: Greenwood, Crooks, Atkin, Vaivai, Hall
Goals: Hall (5)
Drop Goals: n/a
Widnes Vikings 0
Drop Goals: n/a
Hull KR: Chris Atkin, Craig Hall, Ben Crooks, Taioalo Vaivai, Will Oakes, Todd Carney, Danny McGuire, Mose Masoe, Tommy Lee, Nick Scruton, James Greenwood, Joel Tomkins, Chris Clarkson.
Interchanges: Rob Mulhern, Maurice Blair, Ben Kavanagh, Danny Tickle.
Widnes Vikings: Rhys Hanbury, Owen Buckley, Keanan Brand, Charly Runciman, Stefan Marsh, Joe Lyons, Tom Gilmore, Chris Houston, Lloyd White, Harrison Hansen, Matt Whitley, Chris Dean, Macgraff Leuluai.
Interchanges: Aaron Heremaia, Sam Wilde, Ted Chaplow, Jay Chapelow.
Referee: Chris Kendall