Mason calls the tune for rampant Rovers

Hull KR 40 Crusaders 22
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The Independent Online

The Willie Mason bandwagon trundled over the Crusaders as Rovers' iconic new signing showed what an asset he could be to his new club.

The Australian Test forward, who arrived this week after lengthy immigration delays, had two longish stints, the first of them particularly impressive from someone who had not played for six months.

"Everything worked out well," Mason said. "It was a bit daunting, but I've been exposed to this kind of circus before and performed. I think I can only get better."

Mason's new side were delighted with his opening offering. "He looked really good, especially with the ball in hand," said Rovers' assistant coach, Chris Chester. "He probably played more minutes than he expected, but he's going to be a great signing for Hull KR."

Mason's Rovers career began auspiciously and they were well on the way to winning this game after his first 22 minutes in their colours. Every time he carried the ball up, there were three tacklers waiting for him. Almost every time, he managed to slip it to a man in support.

It was his offload to Shaun Briscoe that helped to set up the first try after five minutes, with Blake Green's break and pass to Ben Galea doing the rest. Crusaders' full-back Clinton Schifcofske completely lost a kick in the low sunlight, allowing Craig Hall to pounce and Scott Murrell to score.

But it was Mason's role in the third try that had "cult hero" written all over it. Taking the ball from Green on an angled run, he passed it one-handed for Liam Watts. It was not merely four points, it was a thing of beauty.

It can only have been a coincidence, because Mason had not even been pretending to get heavily involved in defence but, as soon as he went off, Crusaders scored, Stuart Reardon winning the leap for Michael Witt's kick.

After Peter Fox had jumped acrobatically to keep a penalty out of touch, however, Rovers finished the half well in command through Kris Welham's try.

It was not until Mason re-appeared 10 minutes into the second half, however, that the Robins began to fire on all cylinders again. His menacing presence on the left edge of the attack coincided with gaps appearing on the right, duly exploited by Clint Newton for tries by Jake Webster and Green.

The game won, Rovers slackened off badly to concede tries to Jarrod Sammut, Peter Lupton and a second to Reardon.

Welham's intercept from Witt rounded it off satisfactorily for a crowd of 8,602 that might have been considered slightly disappointing, given all the build-up. The positive note is that they saw enough to whet the appetite for more of Big Willie Mason.

"We made it easy for him," said the Crusaders' coach, Iestyn Harris. "But he's a big bloke and he's going to be a handful."

Hull KR Briscoe; Fox, Webster Welham, Hall; Green, Murrell; Watts, Fisher, Netherton, Newton, Mason, Galea. Replacements Wheeldon, Cockayne, Hodgson, Lovegrove.

Crusaders Schifcofske; Reardon, Martin, Mellars, Williams; Witt, Sammut; O'Hara, Withers, Bryant, Lupton, Chan, Flower. Replacements Moore, Dudson, White, Murphy.

Referee Hicks (Oldham).