Few gave Hull KR a chance of making the play-offs, and even fewer gave them any hope of springing a surprise on third placed Warrington Wolves as the two sides met at the Halliwell-Jones in the play-off eliminator which would see the winner secure a spot in next weeks semi-final against either the Dragons or the Saints.
The two sides have only met once in 2021, the second fixture falling victim to COVID restrictions, when it was the Wolves who stormed to a 50-26 win in a high scoring encounter at the beginning of May.
The Wolves were massive favourites with the bookies and were giving away sixteen points on the handicap coupon, exactly the underdog conditions that Robins coach Tony Smith thrives on, as he sent his troops into battle with nothing to lose.
Both sides made early nervy mistakes but most of the opening exchanges took place deep in Hull KR territory.
Daryl Clark knocked-on over the KR line on seven minutes when he should have scored the games opening try as the sides remained deadlocked. The longer the game remained scoreless, the more the Robins gained confidence and with fifteen on the clock Jordan Abdull found space down the blind side to throw a dummy and reach for the line. Abdull drilled hi conversion between the uprights from the left touchline.
KR were defending stoically, and thwarted repeated Wolves attacks inside their own twenty as they kept the hosts scoreless.
A late tackle saw Albert Vete sin-binned on thirty minutes but from the resulting penalty the Wolves knocked-on, Warrington unable to convert possession into points. Rather than buckle it was KR who went on the offensive, Abdull pushing a drop goal attempt wide of the uprights on thirty-nine.
Warrington were becoming their own worst enemy as they committed errors with the ball inside the KR danger zone.
It was KR who struck again on forty-seven when Mikey Lewis collected his own kick through, wrongfooting and evading Stefan Ratchford in the process, to dive over under the sticks. Abdull added the conversion to double the Robins lead to 12-0.
Abdull missed a forty-metre penalty goal attempt on forty-nine after a ball steal but after a high shot on Muizz Mustapha by Ratchford under the sticks, Abdull did kick a fifty-sixth minute penalty to extend the lead to fourteen points.
Will Dagger was the provider for Jimmy Keinhorst as the German international went over on the left corner on a big overlap as the KR attack ripped the Wolves defence apart. Abdull was unable to add the extras but the Wolves needed to score four times in the remaining eleven minutes to get the win.
A seventy-second minute drop goal from thirty metres out by Abdull extended the lead to nineteen points and ensured a massive play-off shock in favour of the Robins.
Hull KR defied the pre-match odds by registering a famous victory, eliminating the third placed Warrington Wolves from a lowly sixth spot. Once again it has proved not to be Warrington’s year but all credit to Tony Smith’s side who have earned themselves a trip to the south of France and a chance to reach Old Trafford in a fortnights time, if, and it’s a big IF, they can overcome the minor premiers and spring a second successive play-off shock, this time against the Catalans Dragons.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Thewlis, King, Mamo, Lineham, Williams, Widdop, Hill, Clark D, Akauola, Currie, Hughes, Philbin. Subs: Clark J, Ashton, Mulhern, Longstaff.
Hull KR: Dagger, Keinhorst (T), Kenny-Dowall, Takairango, Crooks, Lewis (T), Abdull (T, 3G, DG), King, Litten, Maher, Linnett, Johnson, Storton. Subs: Vete (SB on 30), Milnes, Mustapha, Tate.
Referee: Liam Moore.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, (SB) : HT : 0-10, 0-12, 0-14, 0-18, 0-19 : FT.