Hull KR’s Challenge Cup campaign ended at the hands of Salford Red Devils, but not before giving the Super League side a real scare. A 72nd minute try by Salford’s rampaging Tongan, Ben Murdoch-Masila finally secured the win for the hosts.
In front of the Sky cameras, the Robins were eager to show they have the credentials to return to Super League at the first time of asking, against the side that sent them down seven months ago and especially in the first half they did just that.
Led superbly by captain Shaun Lunt (pictured) ably assisted by on loan duo Jamie Ellis and Jordan Abdull the Robins looked more then a match for the 3rd placed SL side.
Lunt grabbed a 1st half try double, including a brilliant 60 metre dash, straight from a scrum play. Ex KR captain Michael Dobson showed Lunt the outside who duly accepted the invitation and shot through the gap to race away. After a knock on by Junior Sa’u, Lunt repeated the trick and scooted over, this time from 10metres out, much to the delight to the large travelling fans.
Ellis and Abdull’s kicking game was constantly turning the big Salford side around and making them work their way out, but the Robins defence finally succumbed with 3 minutes of the half remaining when Ryan Lannon latched onto a Dobson kick. The Robins going back in at half time 6-14 to the good.
Half time may have come at the wrong time for the Robins though as Salford emerged from the changing rooms, undoubtedly their ears ringing from Ian Watson’s salvo, a different side. Salford blitzed the Robins in the 3rd quarter, the intensity levels from the hosts were too hot to handle and just 3 minutes in Craig Kopczak bulldozed his way over from a short Robert Lui pass. Salford took the lead minutes later when a right edge scrum set play looked on but Kriss Brinning thought different and went in on the left side.
Robins were struggling to live with the Red Devils but battled on and it wasn’t until the introduction of the Robins nemesis Gareth O’Brien, that the game was over for the Red and Whites. O’Brien killed off the Robins again with another kick, this time Murdoch-Masila latching onto it to go over for the final try from a lovely move by the hosts. The Red Devils 24-14 win putting them in the hat for tomorrow’s quarter-final draw.
The first half of the second period was the undoing of the Robins but Tim Sheens’ men showed enough quality and skills to be a force in the middle 8s and beyond. Salford are placed 3rd on the Super League ladder for good reason, they are a very good side and the Robins more than matched them for long periods in this game.
They have beaten all of the bottom five sides in Super League this season and even taken the scalps of table toppers Castleford and Hull FC, so if the Robins can compete with them as they did and maintain the level of performance over the intense 7 games of the 8s against poorer sides then they faced last night it may only be a 1 season holiday in the Championship.
If performances like last night can be reproduced over a 7 week period the Robins will be handily placed to return to Super League and with a little luck without having to do it again in the dreaded Million Pound Game. At least Gareth O’Brien won’t be there to break Robins hearts this year!