03 September 2020 20:38
Players at Hull FC, Catalans Dragons and Wakefield have all tested positive for Covid-19 and five league and cup fixtures have so far been postponed, including Friday's clash between Wakefield and Leeds. Rovers' players have so far avoided the virus and their game against Super League leaders Wigan at Headingley goes ahead as planned on Friday but Smith is bracing himself for an impact. Smith said: "We've been fortunate not to have any positive tests but it's inevitable that we will if it's still out there. "I think it would be naive for us to think it's not going to raise its head in each team at some stage. Smith says it is crucial for the finances of the game that the clubs are able to fulfil their contractual obligations to television broadcasters Sky by seeing out the season.
Smith added: "I am confident we will. I'm optimistic that we're going to have enough teams fit and healthy each week to fulfil our programme. SUBSCRIBE to Love Rugby League on Apple Podcasts. Given the gradual improvement in Hull Kingston Rovers' performances post‑lockdown, perhaps this had been coming. No side has had a tougher resumption to Super League than them, with games against Warrington, St Helens and now Wigan.
But as the weeks have progressed and the season has clicked back into life, there have been hints a win was not too far away. That victory – their first in the league since January – finally arrived here, but it was the manner of it that was undoubtedly the story. At times here it was Hull KR, not their opponents, who looked like the Super League leaders, with a brand of rugby that would have been at home in any rugby league venue across the world. 'It's really frustrating': Catalans Dragons isolate from Super League Read more You feared the worst for the Robins when Wigan took an early lead courtesy of Sam Powell, but the manner of Hull KR's response was anything but what you would expect from a side who have been bottom of the league all season. Within minutes, a break from Jez Litten set Elliot Minchella free to level the game, and the tone was well and truly set from that moment onwards. With relegation off the table this season, there is now a magnificent opportunity for Hull KR to offer experience to their young squad – a large number of whom have been recruited from the lower leagues – without the usual pressure that comes with being at the bottom of the table. Wingers are so often the main beneficiaries when a team play with such freedom, and Greg Minikin certainly capitalised here. He finished with a magnificent hat-trick, of which two tries came in the first half after superb build-up play including the impressive Will Dagger. They were sandwiched either side of a world‑class pass from Jordan Abdull, who sent Minchella in for his second. There was no let-up from Hull KR after the break, either. Already leading 22-12 at that stage they kept their foot on Wigan's throat, and within minutes of the restart another superb piece of skill from Abdull sent Dean Hadley. Abdull, undoubtedly the standout player here, was then involved in the build-up that led to Minikin's hat-trick to make it 32-12. Their courageous defence at the other end was just as impressive as their play with ball-in-hand. After a relentless period of pressure on the Robins' line, it took the sin-binning of Shaun Kenny-Dowall with 10 minutes remaining for a hole to finally open up in Hull KR's defence. By the time Jackson Hastings and Liam Farrell capitalised in the final minutes, the chance of victory had gone for Wigan, who can have no complaints about the outcome here. Hull KR 34 Wigan Warriors 18: Brilliant Robins stun leaders to end long losing run WITH arguably one of the club's finest performances in recent history, bottom-placed Hull KR tonight produced a remarkable victory that both stunned and exhausted Super League leaders Wigan Warriors in equal measure. Hull KR's Elliot Minchella goes in for his first try (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE) Tony Smith's side had not won in the competition since defeating Wakefield Trinity, back on January 31, the opening night of their season. That was there in abundance here as, at times, they had to produce lung-busting efforts to deny their star-studded opponents, especially when captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall was sin-binned late on. However, it was on attack where Rovers also finally got things right with some exhilarating play that was like a breath of fresh air for Super League. With only a four-day turnaround since losing to champions St Helens on Sunday, battered, bruised and a season-ending injury for their most dangerous player, few could have expected this sort of result. However, all the changes that Smith made paid off, not least the recall of Jordan Abdull who delivered a half-back masterclass that made Wigan's reigning Man of Steel Jackson Hastings look merely adequate. Jez Litten was outstanding at hooker, young scrum-half Mikey Lewis showed why he is rated so highly by everyone at the East Yorkshire club and marauding centre Kane Linnett looked like the NRL Grand Final winner he is, delivering his best display since joining from North Queensland Cowboys at the end of 2018. Winger Greg Minikin scored a hat-trick and Elliot Minchella, one of many players plucked from Championship Bradford Bulls, also excelled at loose forward, scoring two tries as Rovers took a 22-12 interval lead. But this win is credit to Smith's ethos; it is well-known he encourages his sides to promote the ball from any area on the pitch and the former England head coach is not simply obsessed with players hitting the ground and getting quick play-the-balls. At times, disorientated Wigan looked like the side stuck at the bottom of Super League, unable to keep pace with the different array of red and white attacks coming their way. But Smith gives his side confidence. Minkin was a perfect example; he fumbled a routine kick early on and also delivered a forward pass yet,rather than go into his shell, the winger still had enough confidence to try an offload on his own 20m line. It came off and set in motion a set that led to KR's first try, Litten making the break down the middle with a rapier thrust that saw Minchella support and cross. It also began a purple patch of three tries in just six minutes that clearly warned Wigan they were serious. Linnet produced his first piece assist to get Minikin over the line before Abdull made a silky half-break and an equally classy flicked pass to send Minchella in for his second. Lewis added his second conversion but Wigan quickly replied when Litten threw a forward pass inside his own half trying to engineer a blindside move. Harry Smith eventually benefitted - although Rovers defenders complained at being blocked - in the build-up and Zak Hardaker slotted his second conversion to leave Wign 16-12 behind in the 26th minute. From there, the story is familiar; the Robins continue to battle and press but eventually, as mistakes increase, they tire and fall away, another valiant effort in vain. Summing up their attitude, Litten - the hooker who is constantly targeted given his diminutive frame - produced a fearsome hit under the ribs of a stunned Mitch Clark, dislodging the ball from the imposing former Junior Kiwis prop. Soon after, with the last play of the half, an increasingly confident Abdull opted to run on the last tackle, Linnett sucking in defenders before returning the ball to his playmaker who, in turn, fed Minkin for his second try. With Lewis nursing a leg injury, Will Dagger took over kicking duties and duly converted the touchline effort. Their side added a fifth try within three minutes of the restart to dent any early hopes Wigan might have had of quickly eating away at their lead. Typically, Abdull was the instigator, his well-weighted high kick being palmed down back to him by his partner-in-crime Linnett, Abdull sending Dean Hadley over for Dagger to improve. Linnett was the force again with a splendid move to immediately get Minikin in for his treble and, though Wigan began to press, they were held out until Hastings benefitted from Kenny-Dowall's yellow card in the 71st minute. Abdull's penalty soon ended hopes of a late flourish. Hull KR: Dagger; Ryan, Kenny-Dowall, Linnett, Minikin; Abdull, Lewis; Hauraki, Litten, Lawler, Hadley, Storton, Minchella. Wigan Warriors: French; Manfredi, Hardaker, Gildart, Bibby; Hastings, Smith; Flower, Powell, Byrne, Isa, Farrell, Partington.