The opening match of a double header at the KCOM Craven Park would not be described as a classic but was entertaining nonetheless as the Catalans Dragons pipped Hull KR 16-18.
With both sides having injury problems, it could be forgiven for not being very physical encounter but that was not the case between the two sides as the Dragons ended the game with ?? fit players.
The Rovers had only one prop-forward in their squad in Mose Masoe but did welcome back captain Joel Tomkins to the second-row after a two-match suspension and would come face-to-face with the brother Sam, who started full-back for Catalans.
The Dragons had no recognised hooker on the pitch, with Lucas Albert starting in the position for the first time in his career but the return of Tony Gigot to the halves gave them more stability in the midfield.
Off the back of at 46-0 drubbing by Salford Red Devils at the Stade Gilbert Brutus last week, Catalans were hoping they could bounce back from that in West Yorkshire but the Robins were not going to make it easy for them.
The Dragons were doing their best to build pressure inside the Rovers half but Greg Bird dropped the ball just short of the line in the 10th minute, and then just inside his own half just a couple of minutes later.
The windy conditions were favouring the Rovers in the first half as Danny McGuire fired a penalty kick over 60 metres deep into Catalans territory. However, Sam Tomkins was not going to allow his brother the opportunity to score as he forced Joel to knock on over the line.
The score was still 0-0 after 20 minutes but that changed in a few minutes later as the Dragons were penalised for holding down in the tackle and Craig Hall slotted the ball straight between the uprights for the lead.
The Robins then won another penalty at the ruck from the kick-off but play was halted after Sam Moa and Greg Bird clashed heads while both attempting to tackle Weller Hauraki. Both players would leave the field for a Head Injury Assessment with neither player returning to the field.
The scores were then level in the 27th minute after the Robins interfered at the ruck and Sam Tomkins converted his shot at goal.
Catalans then lost a third forward to a Head Injury Assessment after Remi Casty suffered a cut to the back of the head which caused blood to spill.
The last ten minutes featured many a chance for both sides but the wind was playing havoc with the high ball and neither team could dot the ball down before the half-time.
In the final minute of the half, the Robins conceded a penalty less than a metre inside their own-half which handed Sam Tomkins the chance to give Catalans the lead on the hooter.
However, kicking into the wind, Tomkins dragged the kick wide by a margin as the first 40 minutes ended try-less.
HALFTIME: Hull Kingston Rovers 2-2 Catalans Dragons
It didn’t take long for the first try to arrive though. Hull KR forced a goal-lien drop out in the opening minutes of the half and charged up the middle of the park. Danny Addy provided the assist as his short ball from the ruck to Weller Hauraki was perfectly timed and the forward charged through a huge gap in the Dragons defence to score under the posts. Craig Hall then converted to make it 8-2 in the 44th minute.
Robins Captain, Joel Tomkins then scored a wonderful solo try. He received the ball about 15 metres out from the Dragons try line and holding the ball in one hand, pushed off a couple of Catalans defenders and side-stepped his brother, Sam, and score the Rovers second try in five minutes. Craig Hall missed the conversion this time but his side led by 10 with half an hour remaining.
The Dragons thought they had narrowed the lead just a minute later. Benjamin Jullien charged down a McGuire kick 20 metres from the Rovers line and the Frenchman raced after the loose ball. He picked up the ball and rolled over in Will Dagger’s tackle and stretched the ball onto the try-line.
However, Robert Hicks deemed Jullien to have been tackled before he dotted the ball down and penalised the Catalans player for a double movement.
The Dragons were running the Robins ragged after throwing the ball around and offloading in most tackles and it paid off just before the hour mark. A looped pass from Matty Smith into the hands of Brayden Williame out on the left hand edge left the Fijian centre with plenty of work to do. He brushed off Jimmy Keinhorst and then powered over McGuire to dot the ball down. Tomkins missed the conversion and the Dragons were six points behind.
Makeshift hooker Lucas Albert brought Catalans back to within two points as a quick play the ball from 30 metres out caught the Rovers off-guard and Samisoni Langi broke down the right hand edge and with a three-on-one against Robins full-back Will Dagger, Langi passed inside to Albert who scored under the posts. Tomkins the converted to level the scores with under 20 minutes to go.
A wonderful try then followed from Hull KR. Craig Hall picked off a Sam Tomkins pass 15 metres out from his own line and raced up the field and slide over the line despite pressure from Lewis Tierney and Langi. Hall then sliced his conversion attempt but with 15 minutes remaining the home-side led by four.
The Dragons were denied once more though as Sam Tomkins attempted to tap the ball back from a high kick and into the hands of Albert. However, the ball drifted forwards and the Robins still led with just over ten minutes left.
The Dragons equalised in the 75th minute through Lewis Tierney. Catalans once again started throwing the ball around, right to left and back to the right. Samisoni Langi dribbled a kick through which Lewis Tierney dived on to bring scores to 16-16. Sam Tomkins hadn’t had a good day with the boot but was on target this time for a two point lead with four minutes 12 second left on the clock.
The Robins looked shattered after the Tierney try and inside the last minute knocked the ball on inside their own half and the Dragons closed the game out after a barnstormer of a second-half.
FULL-TIME: Hull Kingston Rovers 16-18 Catalans Dragons.
Hull Kingston Rovers:
Will Dagger, Craig Hall, Jimmy Keinhorst, Junior Vaivai, Will Oakes, Danny McGuire, Josh Drinkwater, Mose Masoe, Danny Addy, George Lawler, Kane Linnett, Joel Tomkins, Weller Hauraki.
Interchanges: Mitch Garbutt, Chris Atkin, Adam Rooks, Ryan Shaw.
Tries: Weller Hauraki, Joel Tomkins, Craig Hall
Goals: Craig Hall (2/4)
Sam Tomkins, Fouad Yaha, Samisoni Langi, Brayden Williame, Lewis Tierney, Tony Gigot, Matty Smith, Remi Casty, Lucas Albert, Sam Moa, Kenny Edwards, Matt Whitley, Greg Bird.
Interchanges: Julian Bousquet, Jason Baitieri, Benjamin Jullien, Mickael Goudemand.
Tries: Brayden Williame, Lucas Albert, Lewis Tierney
Goals: Sam Tomkins (3/5)
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