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FULL TIME, PICTURES ADDED: Hull KR 26 Warrington Wolves 12
Stefan Ratchford was one of Wolves' better players, scoring a try and setting another up for Ryan Atkins. PICTURES BY MIKE BODEN
WARRINGTON Wolves’ unbeaten start to Super League XVIII has come to a shuddering halt after defeat at Craven Park.
Tony Smith’s men were fortunate to carry a 12-6 lead into the break after tries from Stefan Ratchford and Ryan Atkins cancelled out David Hodgson’s early effort, but there can be few complaints about the final score after the hosts pulled ahead during a dominant second half performance.
Wolves never really got their heads together after the restart, with attacking options falling short as Craig Sandercock’s Robins drew took a slender lead following a Cory Paterson try and Craig Dobson’s penalty, before performing the coup de grace with two tries in the final five minutes.
KR’s strong performance was perhaps a backlash following their embarrassing defeat to Salford last week, but there was no denying that Wolves’ lacklustre form played an equally important role in their downfall at Craven Park.
Hull wasted no time in showing how they have become one of Super League’s top point scorers this season by opening their account with their first real attack of the game. A penalty for a high shot handed the hosts position and the ball was whipped left from in front of the posts to send David Hodgson over in the corner.
Wolves did not quite look their sharpest in the opening exchanges, but that did not stop them troubling the home try line following a penalty for holding down on 14 minutes. Richie Myler’s clever grubber bounced tantalisingly for the charging Rhys Williams, but the Welsh winger could not quite get his hands to the ball.
A Michael Dobson penalty gave the home side a chance to extend their lead to 6-0, but the Robins could well have been further ahead moments later, after another penalty gave Josh Hodgson the chance to scoot out of dummy half and get over the line, only to drop the ball under pressure.
Until 20 minutes in Wolves had crafted little in terms of chances, but the visitors started to turn things around as the first half reached its midway point. There was a warning of things to come when Richie Myler’s short ball sent Simon Grix through a gap, but with options left and right his ball to Atkins was knocked out of the air to prevent a certain scoring opportunity.
Warrington, though, dragged themselves level from the resulting scrum. With the ball being worked towards the Rovers posts, Stefan Ratchford produced a superb show of strength to drive three KR defenders back towards the line before getting the ball down. Brett Hodgson added the extras to make it 6-6 after 24 minutes.
A mistake receiving the kick off from Richie Myler gave Hull KR the chance to attack from good position almost immediately, but Wolves’ defence stayed strong to keep the hosts at bay before Hodgson tidied up the danger.
Wolves had not showed the best of themselves in a somewhat scrappy opening half, but that did not stop them from taking the lead just after 30 minutes. A penalty for offside gave Wolves the chance to attack Rovers’ line, and once again Ratchford stepped up to produce a moment of quality to give his side the edge. His high, hanging kick was captured by Ryan Atkins over the KR try line, and the centre twisted to plant down his side’s second try of the day.
Hodgson added the extras to hand his side a 12-6 lead at the break, but that was not for want of trying from the home side, who forced Wolves to defend strongly as the hooter sounded.
The scrappy feel to the game continued after the restart, with Wolves doing little to shake off the feeling they were not quite operating at full strength. Two forward passes in attacking positions prevented the visitors from testing Hull KR’s line in the opening 20 minutes of the half, while at the other end Rhys Evans was called into a try-saving tackle to deny the hosts the chance to restore parity.
Hull were definitely looking the more dangerous side, however, and after being held back in their own half Wolves coughed up possession with a knock on within their own 30-metre line. The hosts did not waste the position, sending the ball left for Cory Paterson to charge through the tackle of Ratchford and reach the line. Dobson’s tricky conversion attempt bounced in off the right post to draw the home side level just before the hour mark.
Five minutes later came a decisive blow in favour of the home side. Another penalty just outside Wolves’ 30-metre line was struck sweetly by Dobson to hand his side a slender 14-12 lead with 17 minutes remaining.
It seemed a bold decision to take the two points with almost a quarter of the game remaining, but as Wolves struggled to forge a path back into the contest it looked like Rovers had made the right choice. Wolves’ increasingly frantic attack ran out of ideas to break Hull down, and the hosts twisted the knife in the final five minutes as tries from David Hodgson and debutant Alex Brown handed their side a decisive 26-12 victory.
Hull KR: Greg Eden; Alex Brown, Kris Welham, Liam Salter, David Hodgson; Travis Burns, Michael Dobson; Evarn Tuimavave, Josh Hosdgson, Rhys Lovegrove, Dale Ferguson, Cory Paterson, Con Mika. Subs: Keal Carlile, Graeme Horne, George Griffin, Mickey Pea.
Wolves: Brett Hodgson; Rhys Williams, Rhys Evans, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Stefan Ratchford, Richie Myler; Paul Wood, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Simon Grix, Ben Westwood, Mike Cooper. Subs: Garreth Carvell, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Currie, James Laithwaite.