MATCH REPORT: Rovers edged out by champions Leeds
LEEDS RHINOS 20 – 11 HULL KINGSTON ROVERS: A pair of late tries from the Rhinos saw them snatch victory after a fantastic Rovers performance.
Tries to Ryan Shaw and Adam Quinlan weren’t quite enough for a Rovers side who lost out late against the reigning Super League Champions.
Despite the wet conditions in West Yorkshire, the Robins flew out of the blocks, dominating the early proceedings against the Rhinos before smart handling saw Shaw and Quinlan go over in the space of five first half minutes.
Leeds responded with quick-fire tries from Adam Cuthbertson and Jimmy Keinhorst to level the scores at ten points apiece going into the break, but a Chris Atkin drop-goal edged Rovers ahead early in the second period.
Despite pushing hard for a third try to increase their lead to a decisive two scores, it was the home side who finished the stronger with Keinhorst’s second and third scores sealing Leeds’ win at the death.
The Robins got off to a bright start in torrential rain at Elland Road, forcing Adam Cuthbertson to fumble on the first tackle of the game to set up a spell of early pressure. That continued when Jack Walker was hauled 15 metres back behind his try line for a drop-out, as the Red and Whites enjoyed the better of the opening ten minutes.
A couple of handling errors in the wet conditions cost them the chance for points, but Rovers were looking strong. Twice Adam Quinlan did brilliantly to deal with horrible kicks on his try line, and the Robins almost opened the scoring a couple of minutes later when Maurice Blair stormed into a gap, only for the ball to squirt from his grasp as he was brought down.
Errors from Ryan Hall and Matt Parcell gave the Red and Whites repeat sets, and although Tommy Lee spilled the ball over the line after a dummy-half dart, Rovers did open the scoring soon after.
Lovely soft hands from Chris Clarkson saw him tip the ball on to give Blair space on halfway. The back-rower found Andrew Heffernan, and he sent Ryan Shaw racing away down the touchline. The winger crashed through Walker’s tackle and used the wet conditions to his advantage as he slid over the line from four metres out.
Shaw added a great touchline conversion, and five minutes later the Red and Whites were in again. Blair slipped a lovely offload away for the excellent Quinlan to break into the backfield, and after Justin Carney had gone close on the left, Chris Atkin feigned to kick to the in-goal area. As the defence pushed up, the half-back skipped into a gap before popping the ball up on the inside for Quinlan to dive over.
Shaw’s conversion rebounded off the upright and Leeds immediately looked for a response, but great defensive pressure from James Greenwood and Thomas Minns forced Liam Sutcliffe to knock-on. That was only brief respite for the Robins’ defence though, and after Andrew Heffernan was forced off with concussion, a last tackle penalty soon had the Rhinos back on the attack where Stevie Ward sent Adam Cuthbertson through a hole and over.
Richie Myler converted, and the home side went back-to-back after going 50 metres from the restart. Myler launched a towering bomb that was spilled by a flying Quinlan, and after Carl Ablett went close, Cuthbertson’s long ball allowed Jimmy Keinhorst to wriggle away from Maurice Blair and dive over.
Myler couldn’t convert, and despite a late flurry of Rovers pressure, the sides went into the break locked at ten points apiece. That didn’t last long after the restart though, as a monster of a bomb from Atkin was fumbled by Tom Briscoe, and in the next set Atkin popped up to bang a drop-goal over to edge the Robins ahead.
Roared on by a great travelling support, the Red and Whites’ tails were up and a couple of minutes later Atkin was almost able to get a hand to a Danny McGuire kick after Hall had spilled a bomb.
Clarkson and Shaun Lunt went close as Rovers’ pressure built, but Greenwood soon joined Heffernan on the sidelines with a head-knock, and only some great scramble defence denied Keinhorst as Leeds began to enjoy some field position.
Video referee James Child disallowed claims by the home side for a penalty try after Blair pulled Sutcliffe back off the ball for an offside off a Myler bomb, and the Robins almost capitalised when Carney plucked McGuire’s cross-kick out of the air. The winger stood in a tackle and was able to get the ball away, but Atkin’s reverse flick pass rebounded off Clarkson, Leeds escaped and snatched the lead for the first time shortly after.
A penalty for interference put the Rhinos on the attack, and as the ball was moved wide, Ablett put Keinhorst in. Despite strong claims from the Red and Whites for obstruction in the build-up, referee Robert Hicks awarded the score which Myler converted.
Five minutes later Keinhorst completed his hat-trick after Hall caught a Myler bomb and offloaded for his centre to touch down, but the Robins came back strong in the final seven minutes.
Laying siege to the home side’s line, Ben Kavanagh and Rob Mulhern went close before Shaw pounced on a lovely McGuire grubber to score. However the decision was referred to the video referee, who found an obstruction in the lead-up and disallowed the score, leaving the Robins to fall agonisingly short.
“After the game I complimented the side on how far we’d come from last season, let alone last week,” Sheens said.
“I was very proud of their efforts out there, in tough conditions. I thought our defence was pretty good, but we had a couple of rough calls and one disgraceful one where Chris Clarkson was obstructed for their third try.
“We had good ball in good field position, but we didn’t play with enough rhythm.
“I was happy that we played with just one interchange in the first half, and that was losing Heffernan, so I’m confident that we’re a fit and strong side, but ultimately their class just got them over the line.
“The Heffernan one was a bit disappointing because he was hit in the head. He was going down, but it was still contact with the head.
“We kicked really well, and it was the reverse of last week. We had no ball early last week, but this week our kicking game was much better. I brought Chris in for his kicking game, and I thought he did well. Danny and Chris both picked up knocks.
I thought he kicked well, ran the ball well and really took the heat off Danny. We need to work on the combination more, but he took to it well tonight and I think we’ll be better across the board next week.”
Tim Sheens rang the changes for the trip to face the reigning Super League Champions, with Chris Atkin drafted in to partner ex-Leeds star Danny McGuire in his top-flight debut. Matty Marsh and Liam Salter dropped out of the side, with Jordan Walne making his competitive debut from the bench.
Leeds Rhinos: 24. Jack Walker; 2. Tom Briscoe, 3. Kallum Watkins, 18. Jimmy Keinhorst, 5. Ryan Hall; 4. Liam Sutcliffe, 7. Richie Myler; 8. Adam Cuthbertson, 9. Matt Parcell, 10. Brad Singleton; 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 12. Carl Ablett, 15. Brett Delaney.
Subs: 13. Stevie Ward, 14. Brad Dwyer, 16. Anthony Mullally, 23. Jack Ormondroyd.
Tries: Keinhorst (36, 68, 73), Cuthbertson (32)
Goals: Myler 2/4
Hull KR: 1. Adam Quinlan; 5. Ryan Shaw, 4. Andrew Heffernan, 3. Thomas Minns, 36, Justin Carney; 24. Chris Atkin, 7. Danny McGuire; 14. Lee Jewitt, 17. Tommy Lee, 21. Rob Mulhern; 11. Maurice Blair, 12. James Greenwood, 17. Chris Clarkson.
Subs: 9. Shaun Lunt, 29. Jordan Walne, 13. Ben Kavanagh, 10. Mose Masoe.
Tries: Shaw (19), Quinlan (23)
Goals: Shaw 1/2
Drop Goal: Atkin 1/1
Referee: Robert Hicks Attendance: 16,149
Man of The Match
Chris Atkin looked at home in his first outing at Super League level, popping up with some lovely touches, including a great heads-up play to put a try on a plate for Adam Quinlan.
Rovers look to build on their strong showing by welcoming the Catalans Dragons to KCOM Craven Park in Round Three of Super League XXIII on Thursday 15th February (kick-off 7:35pm).