Hull Kingston Rovers did just enough to hang on for victory against the London Broncos in a tense battle at Ealing.
Apparently coasting with a 14-point lead in the final quarter, the Robins conceded two tries in two minutes and suddenly looked jittery.
It started well for the Broncos who took the opening possession 65 metres before kicking. Their next possession, aided by a penalty, again forced Rovers back to their own line.
In the seventh minute, the defence was breached as Jarrod Sammut spotted a gap and darted over from dummy half. He added the extras too.
Hull hit back quickly and, five minutes later, were back on level terms. As with London’s score, they were aided by a penalty and also a carbon-copy was Jordan Abdull’s from dummy half, a difference being Jamie Ellis converting.
Eddie Battye almost restored the London lead, but he lost the ball as he tried go over from 15 yards. It proved to be a costly drop because Rovers responded with two quick tries.
First to go over was Ellis, the score coming on the back of Elliott Kear being penalised for stepping off the mark.
Stepping off the mark has been highlighted as an area of the game which needs to be cleaned up, but he was the only player so punished all afternoon.
From the next possession, Adam Quinlan threw a perfect cut-out pass to Keiran Moss, whose path to the try line was made much easier by Keiran Dixon coming off his line and failing to tackle the full-back.
The Broncos then blew two good scoring opportunities out wide, the ball being lost within metres of the line.
First, Adrian Purtell’s pass to Dixon was just in front of the flying winger and he couldn’t hold on with the try line begging.
The next saw Dixon tackled into touch by Moss. It meant the Broncos turned around trailing by 10 points.
But they cut the deficit to just four, seven minutes into the half, when Sammut threw an outrageous dummy, bought by three Rovers defenders and he waltzed through the gap he had created.
A string of penalties didn’t help the home team’s cause and when a Rovers pass went to ground inside the Broncos’ 10, no defender reacted.
Quinlan did and his pass gave Andrew Heffernan to atone for his dropped ball earlier in the half. He took it, but Ellis struck a post with his conversion attempt.
It seemed as if the miss wouldn’t matter because, from the resumption, Rovers went straight back down the field, with Clark and Quinlan making big yards, and Ryan Shaw took a long pass from Ellis before touching down.
With 18 minutes to go, Heffernan tried to stretch over for another try, but he made a double-movement and it gave London a lifeline.
Within a minute, Rovers having withstood the next London possession, lost the ball on the second tackle. Will Barthau picked up the ball and sent a grubber kick into the corner.
Dixon saw the chance and grabbed the bouncing ball before touching down.
Three minutes later, Hull’s lead was cut to just four as Kear sent Adrian Purtell over for a score which Sammut failed to improve.
Now was the time for Rovers’ defence to step up and they withstood a fierce London charge.
Nerves were steadied with two minutes to go when Ellis kicked a penalty, but on the last play of the game, from a penalty, three Hull defenders stopped Andy Ackers inches from the line.
London coach Andrew Henderson said, “I am disappointed we didn’t nick it at the end.
“We played some really good football, but we weren’t quite clinical enough. I can’t fault the players’ effort and energy.”
1. Elliot Kear, 2. Rhys Williams. 3. Ben Hellewell, 4. Adrian Purtell, 5. Keiran Dixon, 6. Jarrod Sammut, 7. Will Barthau, 8. Tom Spencer, 14. Andy Ackers, 15. Eddie Battye, 11. Daniel Harrison, 13. Jay Pitts, 23. Matt Gee
Subs: 10. Mark Ioane, 12. Matt Garside, 28. Sadiq Adebiyi, 27. Ben Pointer
Tries: Sammut (7, 48), Dixon (66), Purtell (68)
Goals: Sammut 3/4
1. Adam Quinlan, 32. Kieren Moss, 3. Thomas Minns, 5. Ryan Shaw, 22. Andrew Heffernan, 16. Jordan Abdull, 7. Jamie Ellis, 8. Nick Scruton, 9. Shaun Lunt, 17. Mitch Clark, 11. Maurice Blair, 12. James Greenwood, 13. Danny Addy
Subs: 4. Liam Salter, 10. Chris Clarkson, 15. James Donaldson, 19. George Lawler
Tries: Abdull (12), Ellis (26), Moss (29), Heffernan (56), Shaw (58)
Goals: Ellis 4/6
Written by David Ballheimer