Hull KR 22 Leigh Centurions 19: Centre Nick Rawsthorne to the rescue as Robins avoid shock exit

HULL KINGSTON Rovers were 14 seconds away from being dumped out of the Coral Challenge Cup when centre Nick Rawsthorne got them out of jail.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 15th March 2020, 6:18 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th March 2020, 11:58 pm

Rovers trailed Championship side Leigh Centurions 12-0 at the end of the first quarter, went 18-12 up at the break and fell 19-18 behind with 10 minutes left.

There were just 72 seconds remaining when the hosts had the feed at a scrum 20 metres from their own line, but they managed to get deep into Leigh territory before creating an overlap on their left and Rawsthorne, who played one game for Centurions in 2017, touched down from Jordan Abdull’s cut-out pass. The reason for the overlap was Adam Higson’s absence, the Leigh winger having been sin-binned, for the second time in the game, with six minutes left. On both occasions Hull KR opted not to kick for goal and that looked likely to bite them at the end.

In front of a 2,620 crowd, it was a frantic tie, with a pulsatingly exciting finish, but in truth neither team looked Super League quality.

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Hull KR's Kane Linnett dives over for a try

Leigh, of course, aren’t, though they have aspirations and a 100 per cent record four games into the Championship season sent them into the tie in confident mood.

Missing a dozen players and on a run of five straight defeats, Hull KR will feel any win is a good one, but they are fortunate to be in today’s sixth round draw.

“It was a mix for us,” said coach Tony Smith.

“I am really pleased we came through at the end.

Hull KR's Kane Linnett is tackled by Leigh Centurions' Sa'u Tafeaga and Josh Woods.

“We left it to the 80th minute, but there’s some lessons for us.

“I thought we were very good in the second 20 minutes, we looked in control, but the second half was really scratchy again,”

Doing nothing special, Leigh scored two tries in the opening quarter, through Higson and Ben Hellewell, both created and converted by Ben Reynolds, off a penalty and Rovers mistake.

However, after that Leigh began to concede penalties and spill the ball on the rare occasions they had it and Rovers took advantage.

Hull KR's Mikey Lewis is tackled by Leigh Centurions' Thomas Spencer and Liam Hood.

Kane Linnett, who Smith described as “the best player on the field by a country mile” began the fightback when he went over from close-range on 24 minutes and the Robins were ahead six minutes later.

High-profile import Shaun Kenny-Dowall had to wait seven games for his first Hull KR try, but it was an important one, the ex-New Zealand Test player nipping over from first-receiver close to the line.

Then full-back Adam Quinlan, who made a welcome return from injury, slid a kick to Rovers’ right, the bounce deceived Ryan Shaw –playing against his old club – and Will Dagger touched down.

Mikey Lewis, an 18-year-old scrum-half who impressed at times, converted all three, but Rovers fell back into bad habits in the second period, when they conceded a series of penalties, made some unforced errors and continually wasted chances on their left flank, before finally taking the one that matter right at the death.

Higson was shown his first yellow card after 53 minutes, for holding down Lewis after making a try-saving tackle a few metres out. There was no score during his initial spell off the field and Leigh were level within seconds of Higson’s return, Liam Hood scooting over from acting half for a try which Reynolds converted.

Josh Woods then landed a one-pointer and even after Higson had departed again, after a high tackle on Rawsthorne, there seemed little chance of Rovers salvaging the tie.

“I feared the worst,” admitted Smith. “We hadn’t scored a point in that second half so of course I had some doubts.

“We lacked composure at crucial periods, but they came through when it counted so I’ve got to tip my hat to them.”

Hull KR: Quinlan, Dagger, Kenny-Dowall, Rawsthorne, Ryan, Abdull, Lewis, Lawler, Minchella, Murray, Hauraki, Linnett, Livett. Subs Trout, Litten, Harrison, Gee.

Leigh Centurions: McNally, Shaw, Thornley, Tafeaga, Higson, Reynolds, Woods, Gerrard, Hood, Ioane, Hellewell, Thompson, Addy. Subs Wildie. Glohe, Spencer. Field.

Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).