Hull KR's defensive masterclass paves way for gutsy Leigh Leopards victory

Hull KR are third in Super League after producing an exceptional defensive performance to shut out Leigh Leopards. Rovers' desire to scramble and willingness to shut down everything Leigh threw at them was remarkable, and they were ultimately rewarded with their third 'nil' of the season.

In a sport where flamboyance and creativity are so often craved, this performance was everything Willie Peters chases from his team. They were physical and combative, but defensively, they showed heart, spirit and hunger to defend every last play. Even at the bitter end, when the game was won, Ryan Hall produced another try-saving effort to ensure they kept the nil. It was one of many, and epitomised exactly what this performance was all about. Rovers have now won 13 of their last 14 games at Craven Park.

Two changes were made to the side, with Tom Opacic and Jez Litten recalled in place of Danny Richardson and Matty Storton. That saw James Batchelor return to the back row and Matt Parcell move to the bench.

Rovers supporters have gotten used to seeing action-packed opening exchanges this season, but it was the complete opposite on this occasion. The two teams exchanged some bludgeoning blows early on as they looked to earn superiority, but neither side budged an inch. All being said, neither side was particularly polished early on either.

Rovers had shaded the game in the opening quarter, though their attack let them down when they had earned territory, with handling errors and poor kicking playing their part in a lack of opportunities being created.

Fairness to Leigh, who looked very assured defensively, and the Leopards created the better chances too, with both Ricky Leutele and Edwin Ipape making breaks that they ultimately couldn't capitalise on.

But Rovers eventually got the opening score on 26 minutes through Opacic, who needed a big moment after a rather forgettable season from a personal perspective. He has found himself struggling to make the team at times this year, but he produced an excellent centre's finish for the try, running hard and releasing his arm to produce a crucial try, which was converted by Mikey Lewis for a 6-0 lead.

At the other end, Litten produced an excellent try-saving tackle to deny Zak Hardaker a few minutes before the break. Hardaker will play for Hull FC next year, which saw him cop plenty from the East Stand during the game, and he looked set to score after Hanley dashed down the wing and passed inside, but Rovers' star hooker arrived at the perfect moment to haul him down and ensure Rovers retained their six-point advantage at the interval.

Leigh had a try ruled out early in the second half, with the dangerous Leutele dropping the ball in the process of scoring after carrying Peta Hiku over the try line. At the other end, Rovers would also have a try chalked off after 59 minutes. Kelepi Tanginoa got the ball over the line after a powerful carry, but only after a double movement.

All being said, there weren't a great deal of opportunities of note. Matt Parcell raced for the line off an intercept but was tracked down while Rovers scrambled superbly to deny Hanley and Hardaker after a powerplay on the fifth.

But the defining moment came on 65 minutes. Jack Hughes ran over Lewis and broke down field. Rovers chased back immensely, but even still, it appeared they would score on the next play with the Leopards having the numbers. As Matt Moylan darted to line, a try appearing inevitable, Batchelor came out of nowhere to produce an astonishing last-gasp tackle to deny the try. It was celebrated more than any try would be.

And minutes later, Rovers put the game to bed. It was an excellent try, too. May went on a mazy run and found a gap. He found Whitbread, who popped a pass to Parcell, who then hit the onrushing Evalds to dive over and win the game.

Pretty? Not always. Admirable, absolutely.

Hull KR: Peta Hiku, Jack Broadbent, Peta Hiku, Tom Opacic, Ryan Hall, Tyrone May, Mikey Lewis, Sauaso Sue, Jez Litten, Jai Whitbread, Dean Hadley, James Batchelor, Elliot Minchella. Subs: George King, Matt Parcell, Sam Luckley, Kelepi Tanginoa.

Tries: Opacic (26), Evalds (70)
Goals: Lewis 2/2

Leigh Leopards: Zak Hardaker, Umyla Hanley, Ed Chamberlain, Ricky Leutele, Josh Charnley, Matt Moylan, Lachlan Lam, Tom Amone, Edwin Ipape, Owen Trout, Kai O'Donnell, Frankie Halton, Jack Huges. Subs: Dan Norman, Brad Dwyer, Darnell McIntosh, Lewis Baxter.