Hull KR were bidding to be the second side from the city to make the semi-finals of the Coral Challenge Cup, after their Black & White neighbours coasted past the holders yesterday. The daunting obstacle in their way was Super League's second placed Warrington Wolves, who themselves have a pretty decent Challenge Cup pedigree.
It was second top against second bottom, but both knew that the unpredictability of the cup could go either way. Both sides had good wins at the Magic Weekend, but Warrington had the advantage of having won both previous league meetings between the two sides.
KR were without their skipper Joel Tomkins after he was found guilty of a dangerous contact last weekend, with Owen Harrison being brought into the side. Steve Price named an unchanged Wolves side as they looked to edge closer to their third final in the last four years.
It was a tentative start from noth side, neither could get within strike distance of the others line and last tackle kicks were ineffectual. Jake Mamo grabbed himsef the first try on eleven minutes after Warrington had forced a drop out. The full back took a delightful Declan Patton pass to show the KR defence a clean pair of heels to skirt over. Patton added the extras and the favourites were 6-0 up.
A tackle from Tom Lineham on Jimmy Keinhorst, which would have been better measured on a calendar, saw the Wolves man sin-binned on eighteen. One minute later Ben Currie held George Lawler up over the line for a try saver.
With Warrington on a team warning Dec Patton was sin-binned for a ball steal, the Wolves now down to eleven men for the next six minutes. Depite having a two man advantage, the Robins still couldn’t get over the Wolves line.
One minute before the break Blake Austin weaved his way through a tired KR defence, after an intricate passing move, to get the ball on the ground for the second Wolves try. Patton added the conversion for a 12-0 interval lead. KR weren’t out of the game, but they would need to find a way to convert possession into points in the second half.
Just two minutes into the second half Tom Lineham managed to get the ball over the line despite the attentions of three KR tacklers to strike a hammer blow for the Wolves. Patton slid his conversion attempt across the front of the uprights but KR needed three converted tries.
Ben Murdoch-Masila scored from ten metres off an Austin pass despite stumbling short of the line. Paton kicked the conversion as the Wolves seemingly eased their way into the semi-finals.
On fifty-four Ben Crooks grabbed a Robins lifeline with a seventy metre run to the line after stealing the ball on his own thirty. Ryan Shaw was unable to add the conversion from wide, KR behind by 22-4.
Hull’s second came on sixty-one when Josh Drinkwater was on hand to take a Rob Mulhern inside pass to go past the last line of defence. Shaw added the extras to put the home side into double figures.
Patton missed a twenty metre penalty attempt on sixty-four and as double punishment Drinkwater grounded a Danny McGuire grubber just five minutes later. When Shaw added the conversion the deficit was down to just six points, and the KR faithful were wondering where their side had been for the opening fifty minutes.
But just as the Wire’s nerves were jangling, Ben Currie took an Austin pass after a high kick wasn’t dealt with by the Robins defence. Patton added the conversion for 28-16 with just over five minutes remaining.
Three minutes from time and another Hull lifeline as Craig Hall dummied twice before putting his foot down and accelerating over the line. Shaw added the conversion and again there was just six points in it.
KR ended the game on the offensive but couldn’t get over the whitewash to force golden point extra time.
Warrington held on for the win and cup progress despite dominating the opening fifty minutes and establishing a twenty-two point lead. All credit to KR for the fightback, and for getting within a converted try of their opponents, but you can’t win these fixtures when you only function for a percentage of the game. The scoreline suggests that there was little to choose between these two sides but for long periods the Wolves were just coasting, and KR nearly made them pay for it.
KR: Hall (T), Shaw (3G), Linnett, Keinhorst, Crooks (T), McGuire, Drinkwater (2T), Maria, Addy, Masoe, Lawler, Hauraki, Mulhern. Subs: Atkin, Garbutt, Lannon, Harrison.
Wolves: Mamo (T), Lineham (T, SB on 18), Goodwin, King, Charnley, Austin (T), Patton (4G, SB on 22), Hill, Clark D, Cooper, Currie (T), Hughes, Philbin. Subs: Murdoch-Masila (T), Clark J, Akauola, Davis.
Referee: Rob Hicks.