Be honest, you didn’t see this coming, did you? That’s because nobody did. There have been some remarkable and unforgettable nights throughout the years in the Super League play-offs, but not many can hold a torch to this one, especially if you are a Hull Kingston Rovers supporter.
It is a sentence that was barely believable in January, when so many were tipping Tony Smith’s side to be battling against relegation. But Hull KR are one win away from the Super League Grand Final, and how they’ve got to this point is just as remarkable. Sneaking into the play-offs in sixth on the final round of the season was, in the eyes of many, a success.
Travelling here without nine first-team regulars against a near-full strength Warrington side who had begun to motor through the gears as the play-offs approached, you wondered whether Rovers could keep it respectable, let alone compete for a place in the semi-finals. But what makes this Robins team so dangerous is the fact that nobody is giving them a chance.
“This is enormous for our club,” Smith said. “Not many people gave us much of a chance but knowing the spirit in this group, I am so proud of them.” They will now face the league leaders Catalans – ensuring there will be a new team in the Grand Final – on Thursday for a place at Old Trafford.
For large periods here, they were under extreme pressure, but time and time again, they held firm. Jordan Abdull, who ran the game from start to finish, put Rovers ahead at half-time with a brilliant solo try, converting to make it 6-0. Abdull’s influence on the game continued after half-time, but when his half-back partner, Mikey Lewis, scored a remarkable chip-and-chase try, Abdull’s conversion made it 12-0 and put the Robins in control.
How satisfying it must have been for Rovers supporters to see Abdull and Lewis, two local players, engineer this result. But for Warrington, their season ended in familiarly abject fashion here. Their wait for a first league title since 1955 continues, and Steve Price’s reign drew to a close in the most frustrating manner as he prepares to return home to Australia.
“That performance was unacceptable, it just wasn’t good enough,” Price said. Warrington laboured in attack for much of the evening, and when they were unable to break the Robins down, a penalty from Abdull to make it 14-0 gave them crucial breathing space. But if there were any doubts, they were firmly extinguished when Jimmy Keinhorst scored in the corner, before an Abdull drop goal added an extra gloss to the scoreline.
“We’re not done yet,” Smith had warned in the run-up to this game. As has been the case so many times in the past, the wisest old head in the game, twice a Grand Final winner with Leeds before, has been proven right once again. From the bottom of the table in 2020 to the brink of the Grand Final in 2021: this is some story we are witnessing unfold.