|Warrington (0) 0|
|Hull KR (6) 19|
|Tries: Abdull, Lewis, Keinhorst Goals: Abdull 3 Drop-goal: Abdull|
Tony Smith’s Hull KR stunned his old club Warrington to set up a Super League semi-final at Catalans Dragons, only a year after finishing bottom.
The Robins finished sixth this season, three places below Wolves, but Jordan Abdull’s late first-half try gave the visitors a slender half-time lead.
And they continued to upset the odds with further scores from Mikey Lewis and Jimmy Keinhorst to seal victory.
They now face Catalans in Thursday’s first semi-final in Perpignan.
Like the Dragons, Rovers are now within 80 minutes of a first Super League Grand Final appearance, having reached the knock-out phase of the season for the first time in eight years.
Not only did the Robins score three tries, they also kept the Wire scoreless.
With 98 tries in the hosts’ 21 games this season, only Catalans had managed more in Super League in 2021, but Rovers showed that regular season form means little when it comes to the play-offs.
Up against a Warrington side coached by Steve Price, the man who succeeded him at Wire four years ago, the odds were further stacked against Smith’s Rovers given the talent watching on from the stand. The likes of Adam Quinlan and England wing Ryan Hall were among nine senior players missing through injury.
Yet, having ridden an early storm when Warrington’s Daryl Clark and half-backs Gareth Widdop and George Williams threatened to run amok, Rovers came up with a game plan which well and truly spooked the hosts.
They used the dynamism of hooker Jez Litten to great effect, picking off the back of the solid work of ex-Wire man George King and Will Maher.
But it was the combination of Lewis and Abdull in the Robins’ halves that provided the spark.
Lewis chipped and chased to beat Stefan Ratchford to score early in the second half after Abdull had earlier bullied his way across.
Keinhorst’s late try was then the first time Rovers really put a slick move together, in the traditional sense, after two moments of ingenuity for the opening two scores.
Warrington reached a Grand Final in outgoing coach Price’s first season in charge but since then, despite a Challenge Cup success over St Helens, they have failed to deliver at play-off time.
His exit, plus those of former captain Chris Hill and Jake Mamo, somewhat marks the end of an era for the Wire, as Daryl Powell prepares to come in from Castleford as coach.
For Rovers, Perpignan now beckons, and a fourth meeting this season with a side they have so far lost to this season by just one, two and seven points.
Warrington coach Steve Price:
“We got what we deserved. I never saw that coming. It’s gut-wrenching. We were at full strength apart from Mike Cooper and had everything going for us but we dished out our worst performance.
“We got beaten in every facet. But full credit to Hull KR who came with some high energy and played some good football. We didn’t handle it.
“The amount of errors was atrocious. There were 21 in total. You are never going to give yourselves a chance in rugby league.”
Hull KR coach Tony Smith:
“It’s fantastic. We’ve been trying to break into that. It’s enormous for our club. Probably not many people gave us much of a chance, but I’m really pleased for the owner. It’s been a long time between drinks.
“I like the attitude of my guys, they pulled together for each other. And Jordan Abdull ran the show. This has been coming for him. He’s had some really strong performances over the years but now they’re coming regularly for him. That’s what Man of Steel is about, doing it consistently.
“We had a great build-up despite being flat last week and to come here and find enough energy to win makes me really proud. We were able to pretty much handle anything that was thrown at us.”
Warrington: Ratchford; Lineham, Mamo, King, Thewlis; Widdop, Williams; Philbin, Hughes, Currie, Akauola, D Clark, Hill
Interchanges: J Clark, Ashton, Mulhern, Longstaff.
Hull KR: Crooks; Dagger, Keinhorst, Takairangi, Kenny-Dowall; Lewis, Abdull; Storton, Johnson, Linnett, Maher, Litten, King.
Interchanges: Vete, Milnes, Mustapha, Tate.
Sin-bin: Vete (31)
Referee: Liam Moore.