THE WAIT for their first win in the Qualifiers continues, but Featherstone Rovers came out of their 30-18 defeat by Hull KR with heads held high.
Rovers lost all seven middle-eights fixtures last year and have been defeated in three of their four this term, their only point coming from a draw at London Broncos.
But they are getting closer and they gave Hull KR, who are now just one win from a return to Super League, plenty to think about, leading early in the first half and cutting the gap to just six points in the second.
Featherstone competed throughout and there were outstanding contributions from Matty Wildie and substitute Frankie Mariano, but their left side struggled to cope with Hull KR’s pace and the visitors’ more clinical finishing was a big difference between the teams.
Kyran Johnson, Featherstone’s left-winger, opened the scoring on eight minutes from an excellent pass by Misi Taulapapa after Richard Moore and Anthony Thackeray had also handled.
Ian Hardman converted and Featherstone were pressing for a second try when the Robins hit back six minutes later.
Hardman’s loose pass was snapped up by Ryan Shaw close to his own line and he raced the full length of the field.
Jamie Ellis kicked the first of his four conversions.
A brilliant tackle by Featherstone second-rower John Davies kept out Rovers’ former Castleford Tigers winger Justin Carney, but the visitors went ahead four minutes into the second quarter.
Andrew Heffernan, who was outstanding for Hull KR, made a searing break after being sent away by Chris Clarkson.
Veteran prop Moore got back to make the tackle, but on the next play Danny Addy went over from Chris Atkins’ pass.
Moore had a strong game and his loss with a hamstring injury in the second half was a blow for the hosts. Another run from Heffernan established the field position for the Robins’ third try, seven minutes before the interval, but it was Maurice Blair who did most of the damage, rampaging upfield before off-loading to Ellis almost on the home side’s line.
Featherstone got back into the game 12 minutes into the second half when Mariano, who began his career at Hull KR, forced his way over from a pass by Sam Brooks. There was a suspicion of a double-movement, but the try was given and Hardman added the extras.
That lifted the home team and Hull KR were rattled for a spell.
Feathertone went close to getting on terms through Mariano, who made a big impact off the bench, but Adam Quinlan made a crucial tackle and moment later Ellis calmed Hull KR’s nerves with a penalty goal, just before the hour mark, to edge them two scores ahead.
With 15 minutes left successive penalties took Hull KR from their own line deep into Featherstone territory and Minns went over for an unconverted try from Atkin’s well-timed pass, and four minutes later Heffernan crawled over from close range after a powerful charge by Mose Masoe.
That put the game beyond Featherstone, but the home side’s effort was rewarded when James Lockwood put Johnson over for a consolation try two minutes from time and Hardman completed the scoring with a touchline conversion.
Featherstone coach John Duffy said: “I thought from our embarrassment over at Widnes, our attitude was first class. In the first half we really troubled them, but we had a few defensive lapses, which we looked at on video at half-time.
“You have got to take your opportunities when they come and we didn’t at times in the second half and we got burned for it.
“You can’t turn over cheap possession like we did.
“But I was really proud of the boys.
“I thought in big periods of the game we bashed them and we deserved a bit more out of it.”
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Johnson, Taulapapa, Hardcastle, Briscoe, Thackeray, Wildie, Moore, Carlile, Ormondroyd, Davies, Farrell, Lockwood. Subs Brooks, Cooper, Mariano, Briggs.
Hull KR: Quinlan, Shaw, Heffernan, Minns, Carney, Atkin, Ellis, Jewitt, Lawler, Scruton, Addy, Clarkson, Kavanagh. Subs Lunt, Masoe, Greenwood, Blair.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).