Rovers progressed in the Challenge Cup – a trophy the club have won only once – but even playing against 12 men for almost 50 minutes proved far from straightforward.
Saints had their winger Francis Meli sent off for a horrible-looking high tackle on Craig Hall. Soon after that they were 16-6 down, but fought back to lead briefly before the task turned out to be a little too much for them.
It was a continuation of Saints’ poor form at Craven Park, but the first time in 18 years they have been knocked out of the Cup at this stage. Allied to their unconvincing Super League form, it threatens to make this a forgettable season.
Discipline was undeniably a factor, because, apart from Meli’s inevitable dismissal, they also had two players who were placed on report.
Another contributory cause was the clever kicking and vision of the Robins’ full-back, Greg Eden, who created two tries and scored another.
Rovers dominated the early stages, and it was no surprise when they took the lead after 13 minutes, Eden putting in a precision grubber for Hall to cross in the corner. Their second try came when Ade Gardner was late on Kris Welham, conceding a penalty as well as going on report. A clever pass from dummy-half by Josh Hodgson to Mickey Paea did the rest.
Saints had scarcely got into the game, but when they did they created the sort of try for which they were once famous for throughout the land, the ball going through countless pairs of hands before Gardner touched down.
Any prospect of a real Saints resurgence, though, seemed to have disappeared when Meli went down the tunnel and, almost immediately, a recovered Hall went outside an outnumbered defence for the Robins’ third.
Under the circumstances, it was remarkable that Saints should come back to lead after 10 minutes of the second half.
They did so with first a lucky try when Jon Wilkin’s kick deflected to Paul Wellens and then with Mark Percival’s score, set up by Sia Soliola’s run and pass.
Eden missed out on a try after a knock-on by Hall, but from a repeat set for an initial infringement by the visitors Saints found themselves a man short in defence once more thanks to Eden, who sold them a dummy to put Rovers back on top.
Even against 12 men, though, it was hardly a secure lead, but another imaginative kick from the skilful Eden finally clinched matters, with Liam Salter this time the beneficiary who crossed for the try.
Hull KR: Eden; Hall, Welham, Salter, D.Hodgson; Burns, Dobson; Paea, J.Hodgson. Walker, Lovegrove, Paterson, Griffin. Substitutes used: Carlile, Mika, Green, Beaumont.
St Helens: Makinson; Gardner, Turner, Jones, Meli; Howarth, Wellens; Puletua, Hohaia, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Laffranchi, Soliola, Wilkin. Substitutes used:Greenwood, Walmsley, Clough, Percival. Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).