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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Hull KR 36 Warrington Wolves 10, Rampant Robins Move Within Striking Distance of Top 8 With Demolition of Wolves

Hull KR turned up the heat on the top 8 in Super League with an outstanding performance to blitz Warrington Wolves at the KC Lightstream Stadium.

The Wolves started this game as slight favourites despite their erratic form while Rovers tried to close in on the coveted top 8 in by following up their impressive win against Widnes Vikings last week.

The first chance of the game came the way of the Robins with back-to-back penalties giving them possession and field position close to the visitors line but the chance came to nothing after their third set on the Wolves line ended with a poor grubber kick which was snapped up by the defence.

The visitors then marched up-field but their own chance came to nothing as Ben Westwood was tackled just short of the line by Liam Salter which led to the handover.

In the next exchange Albert Kelly tried a kick which was charged down by Man of Steel winner Daryl Clark and the chance ended with Chris Hill going over under the posts in the 10th minute to give them a lead against the run of play, the conversion from Declan Patton stretched the lead to 6 points for the men in primrose and blue.

Rovers then marched to the other end and created an opening down their left but Maurice Blair’s kick for Josh Mantellato was cleared up by a well organised defence.

Another penalty to the visitors invited them to the other end again and when they earned a repeat set they had more chance to apply pressure but a dropped pass by Patton gave Rovers the chance to clear their lines again.

The next attack from the visitors ended with a speculative kick by Patton but it was well claimed by Mantellato before Wolves captain Joel Monaghan could pounce.

Referee James Child wasn’t endearing himself to the home support especially when James Laithwaite was allowed to get away with a blatant ball-steal in a two man tackle as loan man Tony Puletua closed in towards a first try for Rovers.

Warrington were getting more into their stride in the second quarter but workmanlike was the best way of describing the efforts of both sides in a very end-to-end affair in the first half with defence on both sides giving the most noteworthy contributions to the proceedings.

Eventually Ken Sio provided a piece of magic in the 36th minute after a fast cross-field move set him free from just over 40 meters out and the winger raced through to cross the whitewash in the right corner, the touchline conversion from Mantellato fell just short to leave the visitors two points ahead.

Rovers then had a second try awarded by the video referee after a kick by Kelly was caught by Monaghan but the ball was forced free after a clash of heads with Kris Welham and eventually Mantellato forced his way over in the 38th minute and then added the conversion to give the home side a 10-6 advantage at half time.

Rovers started the second half with more urgency and forced a repeat set near the Wolves line but Jordan Cox brought that to a stop by knocking on 15 meters from the visitors line.

However the home side soon forced another chance as Ryan Atkins was forced into touch less than 40 meters from the Warrington line but the resulting attack came to an end as a grubber kick from Kelly was snaffled by the Wolves defence.

A penalty for obstruction gave Rovers another attack and this time they took full advantage as Kieran Dixon cut through a non-existent defence and went over under the posts, the inevitable conversion stretched their lead to 10 points in the seventh minute of the half.

The Robins looked much the hungrier and better organised of the two sides and, with Kelly orchestrating the attack, they were making light of the absence of their talismanic captain Terry Campese.

The next Rovers attack saw a speculative kick from Kelly which Sio beat Gene Ormsby to and knocked back to Salter for the centre to just drop down and score in the 54th minute, the majestic touchline conversion from Mantellato made it 22-6 to Rovers.

A mistake by Dixon gave Warrington a chance as he dropped a high bomb under minimal pressure and eventually a quick move across field saw Ormsby slide in at the corner, Patton pushed the touchline conversion wide to leave the men from Cheshire trailing by 12 points after 58 minutes.

A mistake at the other end by Ormsby then gave Rovers another attacking scrum 15 meters from the away sides line but despite the threat Warrington maintained their slim chance by keeping them at bay this time.

A break by Dixon then led to another attack and a deft little grubber kick by Kelly saw stand-in captain Tyrone McCarthy get over the whitewash against his former club, Mantellato missed the conversion to leave the score 26-10 with just under 15 minutes left to play.

Mantellato then added a penalty from 40 meters out in the 70th minute to stretch the advantage to three converted tries for the home side.

A knock on by Warrington after one scrum then gave the Robins yet another attacking scrum close to their line and Kris Welham forced his way over from a delightful pass by Maurice Blair, Mantellato again added the extras to stretch the score to 34-10 with six minutes left on the clock.

Wolves prop Ashton Sims then gifted Rovers another penalty with a little braul which Mantellato duly converted from 40 meters out to make it 36-10 with the final act of the match.

This result will undoubtedly see Rovers deservedly head into their Challenge Cup Quarter Final at home against Catalans Dragons next week with great confidence.

Penalties: Hull KR 6 Warrington 3

Goal Line Drop Outs: Hull KR 1 Warrington 1

Man of the Match: Albert Kelly

Attendance: 7,455