Leeds were looking to make it three wins from three in The Qualifiers and secure their Super League place but Hull K.R. had other ideas in an absolute thriller at Headingley.
Joel Moon was the first over the try line on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The Rhinos spread the ball from right to left and Moon dived over in the corner. Liam Sutcliffe failed with his conversion attempt for an early 4-0 lead to Leeds.
A high tackle from Ben Crooks allowed Leeds to set up from half-way but huge hits from the Robins defence stopped them in their tracks.
Hull K.R. equalised the scores in the next set as Leeds tried to escape their own line. Luke Briscoe was the guilty party as his loose pass was picked up by Craig Hall, who took his chance perfectly to level the scores. Danny Tickle missed his conversion attempt to keep the scores at 4-4.
The Robins took the lead just minutes late as a fifth tackle kick from Chris Atkin was collected by Adam Quinlan, who dotted down for K.R. who lead by four points following a second missed conversion by Tickle.
Hull K.R. were the stronger side in the opening quarter as they forced a knock-on from Tom Briscoe as the start of the Leeds set but the resulting play came to nothing.
Leeds were not going to make it easy for the Rovers and after a break from Carl Ablett, the Rhinos won a penalty. However, Ablett picked up a big knee injury which could potential put the second-rower out for the season.
After the short injury break, Leeds attempted to rebuild but Jamie Jones-Buchanan couldn’t hold onto the ball and Hull were let off.
K.R. then punished the poor Rhinos defence as a break from Ben Crook sdown the left hand side left him and Robbie Mulhern 1-on-1 with Jack Walker and Mulhern out paced the chasing Leeds defenders to score against his former club. Craig Hall was handed the kicking duties and slotted his conversion to make it 4-14 to the East Yorkshire side.
The East vs West Yorkshire contest was hotting up as a fifth tackle play from Leeds was thrown about and Tom Briscoe darted through the stretched Robins defence to pull the Rhinos closer to Hull. Liam Sutcliffe converted the try to make the scores 10-14 after 25 minutes.
With half and hour gone Rovers were still in the driving seat and after a silly penalty conceded by Leeds allowed Craig Hall to slot a penalty to make it 10-16.
The Robins forced another repeat set as Jack Walker failed to catch a high ball, but despite making the fifth tackle, Liam Sutcliffe intercepted a pass from ex-Rhino Danny McGuire and ran 80 metres downfield to set up Leeds for a try just three minutes before half-time as Richie Myler stepped past Mose Masoe to score under the posts. Sutcliffe converted again to make it 16-16.
However, that wasn’t it for the half however and Leeds managed to dot down again. This was a wonderful team try in which 8 players were involved and finished off by Nathaniel Peteru. Sutcliffe converted again to make the half-time score 22-16
Half-Time: Leeds Rhinos 22-16 Hull K.R.
Leeds started the second half the brighter and after winning a penalty 20 metres out, Sutcliffe converted a penalty to make the score 24-16 to the Rhinos. The game was far from finished though.
Rovers showed the Rhinos that were weren’t going to roll over and it was Craig Hall, for his second, as the outpaced Luke Briscoe down the right hand touchline to bring the Robins to within four points.
Hull K.R. powered straight back up the field with hard runs, quick plays and offloads to win a penalty and reset 20 metres out. A perfect set was topped off by Craig Hall, for his hat-trick, as the Robins levelled the scores once more. Richie Myler couldn’t collect Danny McGuires high kick and Hall was on hand to touch the ball down. He converted his own try and the Robins led 26-24.
Leeds hit back within two minutes though however as Jordan Thompson made a dent on the Robins line and offloaded to Jordan Thompson who scored under the posts. Brad Singleton converted the effort to make it 30-26.
Leeds now had their tails up and Stevie Ward broke the line, offloaded to Tom Briscoe who scored his second of the game to make it 34-26. Singleton was accurate with the boot once more to make it a 10-point lead for the Rhinos.
The home side were in the ascendancy as two Hull K.R. penalties gave Rhinos the chance to set up just 10 metres out, but failed to seize control as Rovers held strong.
Chris Atkin set the Robins onto another comeback trail as a Chris Clarkson offload to Adam Quinlan left him and Atkin one-on-one with full-back Walker. The numbers advantage paid off and Atkin scored under the posts. Hall converted to bring Rovers back to within 4 points.
Now it was Rovers who were back in control. Junior VaiVai was the next scorer to Hull, as he picked up the ball from dummy-half and twisted, turned and wriggled through three Rhinos defenders to touch down. Craig Hall made it five kicks out of six and Hull K.R. led by just two points with an extremely interesting 12 minutes remaining.
A pin-point Chris Atkin kicked forced Tom Briscoe to tap the ball out of play and the Rovers got a fresh set of six just 5 metres out from the Rhinos line. The Leeds defence was strong however and denied the East Yorkshire outfit.
Rovers were textbook in attack forcing a goal-line drop out by trapping Tom Briscoe in-goal. The Rhinos then failed to collect the short restart to gift the ball back to Hull K.R. with just three minutes remaining.
Leeds were getting desperate in both attack and defence as Dwyer was penalised for offside and Hull K.R. came forward again.
Danny McGuire tried to finish the game off in style for the Robins but as he attempted to ground the ball, he knocked it on.
This gave Leeds one more chance to score, but they would have to go 95 metres. Joel Moon broke down the left hand edge but forced his pass to Richie Myler which drifted forward and Hull K.R. secured their second win of The Qualifiers and stopped Leeds’ perfect start.
Sky Man of the Match: Craig Hall – Hull K.R. hat-trick hero was superb with the boot and his 22-point haul was enough for the Robins to pull off this victory against the Rhinos.
My Man of the Match: Chris Atkin – The Robins half-back was an absolute monster in both attack and defence, stopping both Carl Ablett and Stevie Ward in their breaks. He scored a well deserve try of his own and has been absolute wonder all season for Hull K.R.
Walker, T. Briscoe, Ward, Moon, L. Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Myler, Singleton, Dwyer, Cuthbertson, Ablett, Ferred, Parcell,
Subs: Jones-Buchanan, Mullaly, Peteru, Thompson.
Tries: T. Briscoe (2), Moon, Myler, Peteru, Thompson
Goals: Sutcliffe (4/5), Singleton (2/2)
Hull Kingston Rovers:
Quinlan, Hall, Crooks, Vaivai, Carney, McGuire, Atkin, Masoe, Lee, Mulhern, Tickle, Greenwood, Clarkson.
Subs: Scruton, Lunt, Blair, Kavanagh.
Scorers: Hall (3), Quinlan, Mulhern, Atkin, Vaivai
Goals: Hall (5/7).
Featured Image: Sky Sports