The final game of 2017 is upon us. The trip to Warrington is one we can enjoy after the hard work of the Qualifiers campaign.
Hull KR have set the bench mark for what a club needs to do after suffering the disappointment of 2016 and its one which either Leigh, Widnes or Catalans will look to emulate in 2018.
The chance of finishing top of the Qualifiers league may have slipped by with the last gasp antics of the Dragons last week. That is unless the red and white heroes can, not only win the game, but do so by a winning margin of 98 points, something which may be beyond Tim Sheens’ men.
Warrington are a club in torment after having such a disappointing season, and don’t forget it was supposed to be their year after they stuffed Brisbane in February. With a Head Coach leaving after the game and 14 players who have either left, don’t have a contract for 2018, or have already announced where they’ll be playing next year, the club isn’t just rebuilding its being demolished.
This contrasts massively with Rovers, who have gone about their business quietly knowing that the last seven games were the ones that mattered. With stability off the pitch, has come consistency on it and the playing group has for the most part remained focussed on getting the job done and that includes the final game.
Tim Sheens has brought back in, Jamie Ellis, Thomas Minns, Bobby Blair and Lee Jewitt in an attempt to add more game experience to the starting line-up. Notable omissions are Jordan Abdull, Nick Scruton and Shaun Lunt.
Scruton will be a big miss as the prop has been one of the shining lights of Hull KR’s 2017 campaign, never afraid to run it in hard, the big man is recovering at home from wrist surgery on Monday. Championship Player of the Year, Shaun Lunt is another with big shoes to fill. When any team is missing their Captain the other experienced players must step up and be counted. That is the challenge against the Wolves.
Sheens is backing the younger lads to inject tenacity, pace, and desire into the clash and we all know the quality of Will Oakes, Joe Cator, Zach Dockar-Clay and Matty Marsh. The pace of the Rovers outside backs is similar to that of Warrington, but the difference could be the will to win. In Rugby League this aspect is usually the key to who wins the game. Warrington will have the edge on experience but if their head isn’t in the game, the Robins will prevail.
For me the 80 minute battle is a close one. Yes, Rovers tasted defeat last week for the first time in the Qualifiers, and yes it was a young side that took on a desperate Dragons team, but I believe that the Robins can end the Wolves nine match winning spree. Heart and desire should prevail.
Prediction: Warrington 22 Rovers 36