Hull KR battle past Leeds to continue perfect start to Super League season

<span>Peta Hiku (right) celebrates scoring his first try for Hull KR in the Super League after signing from North Queensland Cowboys in the off-season.</span><span>Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA</span>
Peta Hiku (right) celebrates scoring his first try for Hull KR in the Super League after signing from North Queensland Cowboys in the off-season.Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

There are many ways to win a game of rugby league and the early signs are that Hull Kingston Rovers have the variety in their game to have a say in this year’s Super League title race.

Last week’s opening-night victory at bitter rivals Hull FC was all about handling the occasion of a 20,000-plus crowd, a cauldron of emotion and the eyes of the rugby league world on them. To say they did that would be an understatement given their 22-0 win that sent an early reminder as to who the superior force in the city of Hull is. But these days, being the standout side in the city is not enough for a club with genuine aspirations of winning something this season.

Related: St Helens make ideal start in Super League but look at Wigan with envy

In their first home game, they were faced with a quagmire of a pitch and a Leeds side buoyed by victory on the opening weekend. But despite a sluggish start, Willie Peters’ side improved as the night went on and ultimately were deserved victors. Perhaps most impressively, they have conceded only two tries in their first two games – and one of those was a contender for try of the season from Ash Handley here.

Fourth last year and beaten Challenge Cup finalists, Hull KR appear to have the trait every leading side wants – they can find a way to win even when not quite firing on all ­cylinders. “Those wins when you find a way to win, they’re the most pleasing,” Peters said afterwards. “This time of the year, the pitches are in terrible condition so the players did extremely well.”

They trailed 4-0 early on a night when discipline was again high on the agenda. Three players were sent to the sin-bin, as the new laws surrounding punishment for contact with the head continue to come into force, though there could be no doubting the decision to send Hull KR’s Peta Hiku to the sin-bin for a professional foul after seven minutes. Leeds took advantage, as Brodie Croft combined with Harry Newman to send the centre through for the night’s opening try.

Related: Super League 2024: team-by-team guide to the new season | Aaron Bower

But Rhinos wasted a number of chances to go further ahead, their cause not helped by the withdrawal of full-back Lachlan Miller minutes before kick-off due to illness. The teenage prospect Alfie Edgell stepped in at short notice and did well, but Rhinos’ attack stuttered all evening. And that profligacy gave Rovers the chance to go in at half-time ahead when Sauaso Sue touched down a Jez Litten kick, with the hooker kicking two goals to make it 8-4.

James Donaldson was sent to the sin-bin for Leeds just after the Sue try, a decision that could have been red given his contact with the head of Oliver Gildart. When he returned, the two sides exchanged tries through Ryan Hall for Rovers and a world-class effort from Handley for Leeds, as he collected a cross-field kick from Croft to race the length of the field. At 14-12, the game was in the balance.

“I was proud of the way we defended,” the beaten coach, Rohan Smith, said. “We got beaten by some scrappy moments in truth. It was a good, hard game and it could have gone either way.” But when Leeds’ Sam Lisone became the third player to receive a yellow card, it tipped the scales in Rovers’ favour. Litten kicked a penalty to make it 16-12 before Tyrone May’s delicate kick allowed Hiku to score and settle proceedings in the closing moments.

Hull KR Hiku; Evalds, Opacic, Gildart, Hall; May, Lewis; Whitbread, Litten, King, Tanginoa, Batchelor, Minchella. Interchange: Sue, Shorten, Aydin, Hall. Tries Sue, Hall, Hiku. Goals Litten 5.

Leeds Edgell; Roberts, Newman, Momirovski, Handley; Croft, Frawley; Sangare, Ackers, Goudemand, Martin, Bentley, Smith. Interchange: O’Connor, Lisone, Donaldson, Ruan. Tries Newman, Handley. Goals Martin 2. Referee J Smith.