Hull KR miss golden opportunity as Catalans curse continues

Hull KR missed out on the chance to go second in Super League as Catalans Dragons proved to be their kryptonite once again. The Robins suffered golden point agony, as Theo Fages drop goal saw them fall to a 15-14 defeat.

Rovers have now lost eleven of their last twelve matches against the Dragons, but they will be gutted not to have seen this one home after producing a superb fightback to cancel out a 14-point deficit at the break. You could argue the damage was done in the first half as they made too many errors during the first stanza, and it meant they were never able to get a proper foothold in the contest.

But having roared back, and having had opportunities to win the game, they'll be bitterly disappointed not to have won the game in the end. Meanwhile, it could prove to be a key moment Catalans' season, having won just two of their previous seven matches before this.

Rovers had been well beaten by Catalans earlier in the season, and that perhaps explained Willie Peters' decision to try something different here. He named his captain, Elliot Minchella, on the bench, adding further size to his starting line-up by playing George King, Sauaso Sue and Jai Whitbread from minute one. Whitbread was one of three personnel changes, with Matt Parcell and Joe Burgess also recalled. They replaced Jack Brown, Danny Richardson and Tom Opacic.

However, Rovers could not contain Catalans' quick start again. The energetic playmaker Arthur Mourgue forced a dropout during the third set of the game after a break and kick behind. From the next set, Alrix Da Costa darted over after catching King and Whitbread cold. Mourgue added the extras.

Rovers, so often probing and persistent, just weren't that early. They didn't give themselves an opportunity to be. They conceded a number of yardage penalties, a seven-tackle set, and fumbled the ball on several occasions. It was epitomised by Jack Broadbent's simple handling error on tackle one inside his own ten-metre area. Kelepi Tanginoa was then penalised for a high tackle, and the Dragons opted to take the two points on offer, extending their lead to eight points.

Jordan Abdull, making his first return to Craven Park since leaving for Catalans and subsequently signing for Hull FC, kicked a booming 40-20 to mount further pressure, and while the Robins did defend their line well, with the ball, they were struggling to create opportunities.

When Catalans scored again before half-time, they appeared to have Rovers' number. The hosts were unable to get their hands on Theo Fages, but it was all about Tom Johnstone, who picked up the ball and glided elegently past Peta Hiku before rounding Niall Evalds to score under the sticks. The conversion meant the Robins were 14-0 down at the break.

It was clear Rovers needed a quick start after the break. A quick start they got. Within five minutes, they were on the board. On the right, Hiku broke the line. He was unable to produce a pass before being tackled. But he played the ball at speed, and Rovers were able to score on the next play. Tyrone May, Mikey Lewis, Jez Litten and Evalds all moved the ball left, and Broadbent applied the finish, while Lewis tagged on the extras.

That was the catalyst for the pendulum to swing in Rovers' favour. Often left frustrated by the calls of the officials, they were starting to win penalties and get errors out of the Dragons. Eight minutes after the first try, they had a second. It was a sublime finish by Burgess, who, with just a tunnel to work with, beat England winger Johnstone on the outside and raced to the line. Craven Park erupted and did so again when Lewis nailed the touchline conversion. Suddenly, it was a two-point game with plenty of time on the clock.

Catalans appeared rocked. They were beginning to make handling errors and concede penalties, a complete reverse to the first half. To their credit, they were able to repel a number of attacks from Rovers, but it felt like the pressure would tell.
Eventually, Rovers drew level. Lewis forced an error out of Bayley Sironen and then forced a dropout. Abdull tried to go short with the kick but didn't get the distance, much to the delight of the Rovers support. Lewis kicked the penalty in front of the sticks. 12 minutes to go, all level.

That's how it remained until the end. Rovers had survived a late scare after an Arthur Romano break, while Minchella came up with a massive play, stripping the ball from Fages when they were ten metres out.

And so it went to Golden Point. Rovers had two opportunities in the first half, Jez Litten was narrowly wide with the first attempt. It looked like he'd get another soon after as Catalans dropped the ball, but Tanginoa then played incorrectly. So it was the turn of Abdull next. A silence fell upon Craven Park as his attempt went towards the sticks, though it went narrowly wide. Litten would again try, but his latest effort curled left at the last moment, which took the period to half time.

However, Catalans would eventually win it. A repeat set started them on halfway after some strong carries, Fages was able to calmly slot the ball through the sticks, ensuring they returned to Perpignan with the two points.