Hull KR 32 Catalans Dragons 26, Rovers Move Within 80 Minutes of Wembley With Tense Victory Over Channel Hoppers

Hull KR put their supporters through agony before booking a first Challenge Cup semi-final since 2006 with a nervous victory over Catalans Dragons after a dominant first half gave way to a substantially less disciplined performance in the second half.

Coach Chris Chester brought hooker Shaun Lunt and prop Dane Tilse back on the bench but the line-up remained largely the same as the 17 who had thumped Warrington Wolves in Super League last week for this Challenge Cup Quarter-Final at the KC Lightstream Stadium.

Catalans got the game underway on a balmy summer evening which might have suited the men from the south of France but the early exchanges saw the home side settling into their stride quicker with a kick from Kelly causing panic behind the Dragons line before the ball was knocked out to force a goal line drop out.

There was early controversy as the Robins were awarded a scrum after Kris Welham had clearly knocked the ball into touch in a tackle on Krisnan Inu, they then took advantage with a fast cross-field move which released Ken Sio down the right to score the first try of the game after seven minutes, the conversion from Josh Mantellato made it 6-0.

Catalans got their first chance at some sustained pressure on the home sides line a few minutes later after a ball was batted down by a Rovers defender to give them a repeat set which then led to Welham attempting an intercept but he was unable to drag the ball in causing more pressure.

Inu then came perilously close to a try but Welham then knocked the ball out of his hands deliberately but referee Phil Bentham gave the home side head and feed wrongly at the scrum.

The red and white’s then moved swiftly down-field and after a dropped ball by the visitors ended up in the hands of Kelly and eventually Kieran Dixon got over the line to stretch the lead after 17 minutes, the conversion from Mantellato made it 12-0.

The next attack from the Robins two minutes later came via a Maurice Blair kick, Mantellato got to the ball before Dragons full-back Morgan Escare and handed the ball on to Kelly to score, another goal from Mantellato made it 18-0.

Catalans then got another scrum inside their oppositions half but facing an organised defence they never really looked like cutting through to get back in the game as the game moved into its second quarter despite forcing a goal line drop out when Dixon was caught behind the line.

A break by Mantellato down the left wing and inside pass which cut-out two Catalans defenders and two Rovers attackers found its way to Graeme Horne for the back rower to go in behind the posts in the 29th minute, the inevitable conversion by Mantellato made it 24-0 and left the men from France facing a gap as wide as the Humber to try and recover.

To their credit the Dragons wouldn’t throw the towel in and a break in mid-field by Louis Anderson saw them set up the platform to build from and a delicious little kick from Elliott Whitehead was dotted down by Inu for their first try after 35 minutes, Scott Dureau was unable to add the extras which left them trailing by 20 points.

Rovers were then awarded another penalty in the last minute of the first half after a high shot on Horne and Mantellato duly obliged from 35 meters out to send his side in at the break 26-4 ahead.

The second half started with a bit of handbags at dawn between Inu and Lunt but from that the visitors then made the first attacking opportunity before Inu was denied by Welham after a high bomb.

An attack at the other end by Rovers was similarly unfortunate as Liam Salter caught a hick kick but was held down just short of the line.

Catalans were appearing more purposeful as the game wore on and Zeb Taia took advantage of a quick tap penalty for off-side to crash over in the 50th minute, a first conversion of the evening for Dureau reduced the gap to 16 points and give them some form of hope.

The next visit to the home sides line saw an audacious kick through by Tony Gigot and Inu followed it up to score in the corner in the 55th minute, Dureau missed the conversion but at 26-14 the Dragons seemed to be sensing a comeback which at half-time had looked like an impossibility against the in-form Robins.

The 50-50 calls that had gone the way of the men from East Yorkshire in the first half now seemed to be going more in favour of the Frenchmen.

Ken Sio finally added to his try tally as Rovers took the bull by the horns and a fast passing move saw him dive in at the corner in the 65th minute, the missed conversion left the score at 30-14.

However Catalans still wouldn’t go away and they charged straight to the other end and video referees Steve Ganson and Joe Cobb awarded a try to Ian Henderson in the 67th minute, the goal by Dureau reduced the deficit to 10 points again and a nervous tension descended on the ground again.

A measure of the concern for the home side became apparent with 10 minutes left when, after a crusher tackle on Dixon 10 meters from the Catalans line, Mantellato opted to take the two points on offer to give them a two converted try lead.

Catalans immediately went for a short kick-off and won the ball within Rovers territory which led to sustained pressure. Back-to-back penalties increased the pressure but Rovers stuck manfully to the task in hand to keep them at bay and a knock-on relieved the pressure and enabled them to clear their lines.

Another Catalans attack then produced another try as a kick through by Jason Baitieri was pounced on by Elliott Whitehead in the 78th minute and the conversion by Dureau put them back within one score of the hosts.

Rovers however saw the game out to move on to their first Challenge Cup semi-final since 2006 and within sight of a first trip to Wembley in nearly three decades.

Penalties- Hull KR 6 Catalans Dragons 9

Goal Line Drop Outs- Hull KR 1 Catalans Dragons 2

Attendance: 6,073

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Catalans Dragons 32 Hull KR 24, Errors and Discipline Cost Robins Dear Despite Brave Display

Hull KR were left ruing costly errors and poor discipline as they slipped to their second consecutive defeat in Super League and slipped out of the top 8 as a result.

With a game in hand on most of the teams above them after their involvement in the Challenge Cup last weekend there is no need for the robins to panic yet, what will cause concern is that they conceded 30 points for the second game in a row.

Jason Baitieri started the scoring for the home side after 7 minutes as the video referee deemed he had got the ball on the line without a double movement, the goal by Thomas Bosc gave the home side a 6-0 lead.

The lead for Catalans lasted just six minutes as Maurice Blair shrugged off three would-be tacklers and crashed in wide on the left, Josh Mantellato added the conversion from wide out to level the scores.

The game was fast becoming aggressive as both sides wrestled to take control, on the 19th minute Mantellato added a penalty to give the visitors a deserved 6-8 lead.

Albert Kelly pounced on a wayward pass and raced away from inside his own half but he was brilliantly chased down and tackled by Dragons full-back Morgan Escare which caused Kelly to lose the ball agonisingly short of the Catalans line.

Ben Cockayne got on the end of some fast cross field passing to stretch Rovers lead after 25 minutes, Mantellato hit the post with the touchline conversion attempt to leave the robins 6-12 ahead.

Just five minutes later Catalans marched down to the other end with the help of another penalty and Gadwin Springer crossed next to the posts to score in his second game for the Dragons, the conversion from Bosc brought the score level at 12-12.

Just 4 minutes before half time Catalans took the lead again as Todd Carney moved sideways across the Rovers defence and produced a pass to Michael Oldfield who touched down in the corner, Bosc hit the post with the resultant touchline conversion which left the Dragons with a four point lead at half time.

Half Time: Catalans Dragons 16 Hull KR 12

Rovers started the second half in profligate mood inviting pressure on their own line and, after just three minutes of the half, Eloi Pelissier pounced to score under the posts, the goal from Bosc gave the Dragons a 10 point lead.

Both sides kept trading possession as several dropped passes resulting in play see-sawing from one end to the other.

Kieran Dixon was lucky not to get 10 minutes in the sin bin after a blatant foul on Bosc as the French international knocked on.

Eventually Rovers took control of the possession they got and Kevin Larroyer, playing against what is technically his parent club, made a break down the left before handing on to the supporting Dixon who raced in under the posts to put the visitors back within striking distance, the conversion from Mantellato made it 22-18.

On 54 minutes Todd Carney created another try as he was allowed to offload in the tackle and Benjamin Garcia skipped his way over, the video referee overturned referee Richard Silverwood’s onfield decision to award the try, Bosc added the extras to stretch the home sides advantage to 10 points again.

More indiscipline followed as both sides seemed intent on winding each other up rather than trying to score points.

Elliott Whitehead finally took hold of the game by the scruff of the neck on 69 minutes and scored the home sides final try, Bosc missed the conversion to leave the Dragons leading 32-18.

With two minutes left Mantellato was awarded a try in the corner by the video ref and then kicked a majestic conversion from the touchline but it was too little too late.

In the final analysis this is a game the robins could, maybe should, have won and indeed they probably would have if it wasn’t for such poor discipline. The biggest concern though for coach Chris Chester may be that old defensive frailties seem to rearing their head again just ahead of trips to play Wigan Warriors in league and cup and a visit to table-topping Leeds Rhinos.

Final Score Catalans Dragons 32 Hull KR 24

Man of the Match: Kieran Dixon