Nothing warms the cockles of ones heart like the prospect of a Hull derby on one of the coldest nights of the year. A KCOM Craven Park, packed to the gills with the colours of the Robins and the Airlie Birds was raucous with anticipation of the season opener.
Both sides had disappointing 2018 seasons, Hull KR battling it out for survival in the middle eights and Hull FC losing their last eleven games, and had reshaped their squads over the winter. The visitors were the favourites but with a vastly changed line-up it was Tim Sheens who were the mystery package.
The orange balls were brought out on a very firm pitch with the expectations of some snow or sleet during the eighty. While the temperatures in the stands were sub-zero, on the pitch it was likely to be red hot.
Both sides showed some shaky defence in the opening exchanges, failing to deal with kicks through and over. On fourteen FC hit the front thanks to the persistence of Sika Manu, burrowing under the KR defence off a short pass to ground on the line. Marc Sneyd kicked the extras for a 6-0 lead.
Three minutes later and the Black & Whites were in again when Matty Dawson-Jones picked up a Danny Washbrook grubber to the corner after KR had failed to deal with a Sneyd high kick. Sneyd kicked the touchline conversion to double the lead.
Sneyd was unable to kick a penalty on twenty-seven after the Robins held down in the tackle and on thirty minutes Joel Tomkins gave the home side a foothold in the game after sliding in from three metres off a Danny McGuire short pass. Josh Drinkwater kicked the two points for 6-12.
Four minutes later Mitch Garbutt collected a McGuire grubber under the sticks to ground for a debut try. A simple kick for Drinkwater allowed him to level the scores, KR had weathered the FC storm.
Three minutes from the inetrval, Drinkwater snatched the lead with a fifteen minute penalty after FC interfered at the play-the-ball, the Robins going into the break with a hard-fought two point lead.
Both sides squandered try scoring opportunities at the start of the second half but neither could break the deadlock until the sixty-sixth minute when Bureta Faraimo found some space down the left wing to take a miss-out pass and push away three attempted tackles for a thirty metre try. Sneyd was unable to add the conversion, the visitors had a two points ahead.
With ten seconds left on the clock Danny McGuire put Jimmy Keinhorst free in the right corner to dive and score a spectacular one-handed try by the corner flag to snatch victory. Drinkwater was unable to add the conversion but it matter not, Hull KR had the bragging rights with a dying seconds win in the first Hull derby of the season.
The two Hull sides looked evenly matched during tonights exploits, although neither will have been particularly happy with their performances. There were plenty of errors from cold hands with defences in charge, particularly in a second half which saw just a solitary try. Both sides will need some time to gel their new signings and will be looking for week on week improvements.
KR: Atkin, Brooks, Keinhorst (T), Waivai, Hall, McGuire, Drinkwater (3G), Masoe, Lawler, Mulhern, Tomkins (T), Linnett, Hauraki. Subs: Addy, Garbutt (T), Greenwood, Lee.
FC: Shaul, Dawson-Jones (T), Tuimavave, Griffin, Faraimo (T), Washbrook, Sneyd (2G), Taylor, Houghton, Matongo, Manu (T), Minichiello, Hadley. Subs: Lane, Litten, Rafa, Thompson.
Referee: Ben Thaler.