Bottom side Hull KR and the Warrington Wolves met at Headingley Stadium for the second match on Saturday as both sides restarted their season after the Covid-19 shutdown. A win for the Robins would lift them a single place in the table, above the Salford Red Devils, while a victory for the Wolves could lift them into the top four.
The Wolves were clear favourites with coach Steve Price having a full squad to choose from. Tony Smith was relaxed about his sides prospects pre-kick off and he'd elected to give a number of players who are out of contract at the end of 2020 a go at impressing him.
Everything pointed to the Wolves being way too strong for the Robins.
KR scored within the opening minute to stun the Wolves with the ball moved to the left wing for Ben Crooks to cross on the overlap. Ryan Brierley was unable to add the extra two from the touchline. If the Robins wanted to anger the Wolves, that should have done it.
On eleven the situation worsened for Warrington when Anthony Gelling was sin-binned for an illegal lift. Shaun Kenny-Dowall joined Gelling in the bin on fifteen after he committed a professional foul.
Both sides were struggling to make any headway and the score was unchanged until the twenty-third minute when Tom Lineham took a Ben Currie pass to run the last twenty for the try. Stefan Ratchford converted from wide left for a 6-4 lead.
Both sides were becoming increasingly reckless as the half wore on.There were plenty of mistakes from both sides with some crazy offloads and knock-ons but neither side could break their opponents line. On thirty-five Sitaleki Akauola hit the ball at speed and went over the top of Matt Parcell to score by the left upright. Ratchford kicked the conversion for 12-4.
Mitch Garbutt went very close on the final hooter but excellent defence from Ratchford stopped him from grounding the ball.
An outstretched hand from Gelling, four minutes after the teams emerged, extended the Wolves lead by another four points. Ratchford was unable to add the conversion, the Wolves 16-4 ahead.
On fifty-two Gelling was the provider with an over the top ball to Josh Charnley to score in the corner. Ratchford nailed his kick from the touchline for 22-4.
Ratchford and Widdop combined with move down the centre of the field, the full back putting his half-back over for the four pointer. Ratchford added the extras for 28-4 the Wolves taking the two points.
Ratchford added a four pointer of his own when Adam Quinlan spilled the ball trying to diffuse a high kick. The ball went into the hands of Ratchford who had a clear run to the line. He added the extra two points to his tally for 32-4 with ten to play.
Quinlan regained some pride on seventy-five taking the pass from Kenny-Dowall to run the last twenty metres to score under the H. Brierley was able to add the conversion to get his side into double figures but it was too little, too late.
Toby King broke the KR line in the dying seconds and found Lineham in support to sprint over forty metres to score under the sticks. In the absence of Ratchford, Widdop added the conversion for a final score of 40-10.
A scrappy win, from a side which looked a little rusty at times, but which lifted the Wolves to third in the table, pushing the Dragons back into fourth spot. It was a crazy game, with both sides blowing away the cobwebs, but the quality of the Wolves shone through in the end as KR looked like a side who might struggle to string together too many wins in this truncated season.
Wolves: Ratchford (T, 5G), Charnley (T), Gelling (T, SB on 11), King, Lineham (2T), Austin, Widdop (G, T), Hill, Clark, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Clark. Subs: Philbin, Akauola (T), Walker, Ashton.
KR: Quinlan, Dagger, Kenny-Dowall (SB on 15), Linnett, Crooks (T), Brierley, Ellis, Peteru, Parcell, Lawler, Gee, Hauraki, Hadley. Subs: Minchella, Murray, Trout, Garbutt.
Referee: James Child.
Ground: Emerald Headingley, Leeds