FEATHERSTONE ROVERS boss Jon Sharp described his side’s narrow defeat to Hull KR as their best Qualifiers performance “by a garden mile”.
They remain without a point having slipped to a sixth consecutive defeat in the competition but the Championship part-timers came out of this game with most of the plaudits after giving their Super League rivals an almighty scare.
Featherstone, with captain Tim Spears making his 200th club appearance, were 32-12 behind on the hour but two quickfire tries from strong-running centre Misi Taulapapa in the 64th and 66th minute saw them back in it.
KR’s discipline then disappeared as they conceded a raft of penalties in front of a crowd of 4,041 but Sharp’s side – who had led 12-4 just before the break – simply could not find the finish they desired to cause a shock.
In truth, despite excellent tries from Josh Walters and James Duckworth to build up that lead, they were made to pay for two bad errors at the end of that first period.
First, KR hooker Shaun Lunt took a penalty tap 10m from Featherstone’s line, passed to Maurice Blair who instantly returned straight back to see Lunt glide over through a gaping gap after the home defence had momentarily dropped off.
Josh Mantellato converted and then scored himself in the next set following an horrendous gaffe.
Terry Campese sent up a steepling kick from around halfway which Featherstone full-back Danny Craven and winger Duckworth both raced towards.
With no communication, however, they ran into each other on the 20m line, Duckworth spilled and Mantellato picked up to sprint to the corner with just 68 seconds remaining on the clock. The Italian international converted and all Featherstone’s hard work was undone.
They went in 16-12 down and tries from Thomas Minns (2) and James Greenwood soon saw that stretched to 32-12.
But Sharp said: “Without focusing too much on what caused us to lose the game we have to focus on how well we played and some of the things we did to a really good Super League team.
“Overall it was probably our best performance in the Middle Eights by a garden mile.
“We’ve still got some busted players and some unavailable but I saw an attitude, belief and execution of a plan that caused the opposition lots of problems.
“On another day a couple of calls from both touch judges at crucial stages could have gone the other way. We were good across the park.
“We got forward comfortably and had some great performances whole host of players.
“Our pack was really strong in the first half and we finished off strong, too, which is pleasing against a full-time side like Hull KR.”
Featherstone Rovers: Craven; Duckworth, Hardman, Taulapapa, Briscoe; Briggs, Thackeray; Griffin, Ellis, Baldwinson, Walters, Davies, Tagg. Subs: Day, Spears, Snitch, Cooper.
Hull KR: Cockayne; Sio, Minns, Thornley, Mantellato; Campese, Marsh; Tilse, Lunt, Allgood, Greenwood, Blair, Donaldson. Subs: Peacock, Walker, Jubb, Horne.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).