Hull KR had this week’s trip to France to take on a high-flying Catalans Dragons who were seeking a win by twenty-three or more points to go above the Warrington Wolves to the top of the table and to maintain their one-hundred-percent start to the season.
The Robins and their fans made the journey knowing that if they could enter the cauldron of the Stade Gilbert Brutus and emerge with the precious points then they would be up to fourth place in the table after the opening five rounds of the competition.
The Dragons were made the bookies favourites with home advantage but with KR having just a twelve point start on the handicap coupon there was some certainty that this would be a competitive game with the visitors having a chance of springing a surprise.
A wayward pass from Jordan Abdull was intercepted by Adam Keighran on two minutes, the centre sprinted to the KR thirty before passing to the supporting Tom Johnstone for the lightening winger able to canter in. Keighran added the conversion for a 6-0 home lead, the Dragons scoring their first points with their first possession of the ball.
Lachlan Coote spilled a high ball on eighteen, Tom Davies and Arthur Romano pounced and appeared to ground simultaneously. The stadium announcer gave the try to Davies. Keighran was unable to add the extras, KR 10-0 down and not at the races.
Tom Opacic looked to have scored on thirty-two as he slid to collect and score, but the ball was dislodged at the last minute, the KR centre knocking on in the act of scoring.
Hull KR had their chances but were kept pointless at the half time hooter. Abdull had earlier failed a HIA and at half time Dean Hadley, Frankie Halton and Mikey Lewis were being assessed whether they could continue in the game.
At the start of the second half only Mikey Lewis was passed fit, releasing Will Dagger from eighteenth man to take part in the second half of the game, the first time that they extra man had been used since the rule change.
Mourgue hit one of the uprights with a penalty attempt on forty-three, KR living dangerously.
The heavens opened, the two sides now had a downpour to contend with.
On forty-nine Tom Johnstone made a clean break after picking up a lost ball to score under the sticks. The KR players claimed that there was a Dragons hand involved in the knock-down, but referee Chris Kendall had seen nothing wrong and pointed to the spot. Mourgue added the conversion for 16-0.
KR struck back on fifty-three with a great carry from Rhys Kennedy before a Jez Litten half break and a pass to the supporting Rowan Milnes to go in. Lewis added the conversion, the Dragons lead back to ten points.
It was all too easy for Dragons Tom Johnstone as he crossed for his hat-trick when the Dragons moved the ball wide after four drives down the middle, the KR defence totally unset as the winger crossed. Mourgue was again off target but with a fourteen-point lead and seventeen minutes remaining it was game over.
Next in the progression for the Dragons was Julien Bousquet who crashed the line from close in on sixty-eight. Mourgue was on target for his second goal of the night for 26-6. The Dragons needed one more unanswered try to head to the top of the table on points difference.
Tiaki Chan was sin-binned for a late hit on Sam Woods on seventy-seven putting his side on the back foot.
In the dying seconds Ryan Hall slid over in the right corner to bring up double figures after taking a Will Dagger pass. Mikey Lewis added teh conversion for a final score of 26-12.
It was a bit laboured for the Dragons in the first half but they cut loose in the second thanks in part to the number of failed Head Impact Assessments and also riding their luck to some extent, especially in relation to the second Tom Johnstone try at a crucial time in the game. Steve McNamara´s side never really got out of second gear and eventually took the points with ease, not quite enough to go to the top of the table, but level on points with the Warrington Wolves.
Catalans Dragons: Mourgue (2G), Davies (T), Keighran (G), Romano, Johnstone (3T), Rouge, May, McMeeken, McIlorum, Bousquet (T), Seguier, Ma´u, Garcia. Subs: Goudemand, Chan (SB on 77), Da Costa, Dezaria. 18th Man: Tison.
Hull KR: Coote, Senior, Opacic, Wood, Hall (T), Lewis (2G), Abdull, Kennedy, Litten, King, Halton, Batchelor, Hadley. Subs: Sue, Minchella, Milnes (T), Luckley. 18th Man: Dagger.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0 : HT : 14-0, 16-0, 16-4, 16-6, 20-6, 24-6, 26-6, (SB), 26-10, 26-12 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Catalans.
Referee: Chris Kendall.