Hull KR turned the form book on its head with a battling 26-18 win over Warrington to end a 29-year wait for an appearance in the Challenge Cup final. The Robins celebrated Yorkshire Day with a famous victory in the second semi-final, and will take on Leeds at Wembley on 29 August hoping to add to their solitary cup success, over Hull in 1980.
Hull KR ended the regular Super League season with four straight defeats, but that will be of little immediate concern to their army of fans as they prepare for their first cup final since 1986.
Chris Chester’s men looked to be coasting to victory after establishing a 20-6 lead early in the second half, but were forced to withstand a tremendous fightback from the Wolves before hooker Shaun Lunt clinched victory with their fourth try five minutes from the end.
Warrington, looking for a fourth trip to Wembley in seven years, made the perfect start, forcing a goal-line drop-out from the kick-off before centre Ryan Atkins took Stefan Ratchford’s pass to glide through for a try within 73 seconds. Gareth O’Brien added the conversion and, as Warrington threatened to overwhelm their shell-shocked opponents, he was held up over the line, while half-back Richie Myler thought he was about to increase the lead when he went through a gap, only to be recalled for a forward pass from the impressive Ashton Sims.
Even a run of three consecutive penalties could not awaken Rovers from their slumbers in the opening quarter, but they suddenly exploded into life as scrum-half Albert Kelly began to make his mark on the game. He and his half-back partner, Maurice Blair, combined sweetly to work the ball out to full-back Kieran Dixon, who sent winger Josh Mantellato haring over at the corner on 23 minutes.
The Italy international struck the woodwork with his conversion attempt but Rovers went in front three minutes later when right-winger Ken Sio collected Kelly’s towering kick to claim his 18th try in his first season in Super League. Mantellato kicked his first conversion, added a penalty on 35 minutes to make it 12-6 and then pulled off a try-saving tackle on Warrington’s teenage forward Sam Wilde to keep his side’s lead intact by the break.
Warrington lost forward Ben Harrison through concussion and much of their firepower when starting front-rowers Sims and Chris Hill went off, and the pair were still on the sidelines when Rovers scored their third try six minutes into the second half. A rare fumble by full-back Ratchford created a superb attacking position for the Robins and second-rower Kevin Larroyer stretched out of a four-man tackle to plant the ball on the line. Referee Richard Silverwood thought it was no try but he was overruled by video official George Stokes.
Mantellato added the conversion and then kicked a second penalty on 52 minutes to stretch his side’s lead to 20-6. However, the return of Hill and Sims added more potency to the Wolves’ attack and they clawed their way back into contention, with Myler taking O’Brien’s pass and dummying his way over for a second try.
O’Brien kicked his second goal to cut the deficit to eight points and almost scored again in sensational fashion at the corner, but slow-motion replays indicated he had lost control of the ball in Dixon’s last-ditch challenge.
The momentum had taken a decisive shift and another handling error, this time by Kris Welham, gave the Wolves the position from which Ben Currie, switched from the second-row to the three-quarters due to injury to Ormsby, took Myler’s pass to score his side’s third try. O’Brien’s third goal cut the gap to just two points but Lunt settled the Robins’ nerves when he pulled out of a tackle near the Warrington line to scamper over, Mantellato rounding off the scoring with his fifth goal from six attempts.
Warrington: Ratchford; Ormsby, Wheeler, Atkins, Monaghan; O’Brien, Myler; Hill, Clark, Sims, Wilde, Currie, Harrison.
Replacements: Dwyer, Asotasi, Philbin, England.
Hull KR: Dixon; Mantellato, Welham, Salter, Sio; Blair, Kelly; Walker, Lunt, Puletua, Larroyer, Horne, McCarthy.
Replacements: Boudebza, Donaldson, Green, Tilse.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.Reuse content