Warrington Wolves 18
Tries: Atkins, Myler, Currie
Goals: O’Brien 3/3
Hull KR 26
Tries: Mantellato, Sio, Larroyer, Lunt
Goals: Mantellato 5/6
Hull KR booked their place in the Challenge Cup Final with a shock 26-18 victory over Warrington at Headingley.
Josh Mantellato racked up 14 points as the 1980 winners held off a second half fightback from the Wolves in damp conditions in Yorkshire.
Rovers will face Leeds Rhinos on August 29th in what will be their first Challenge Cup Final appearance since 1986.
Chris Chester described his side’s display as ‘a fantastic performance’ as the Robins reached their seventh Challenge Cup final.
It was the Wolves who started the stronger though, taking the lead after only 74 seconds through Ryan Atkins’ try.
After Rovers had allowed the kick off to go out after bouncing in goal, the Wolves scored from their first possession as they shifted the ball to the left wing and Atkins went over despite Albert Kelly and Kieran Dixon’s attempted tackles. Gareth O’Brien added the extras to give Wire a 6-0 lead.
Both sides were guilty of giving away cheap penalties and coughing up possession in the opening quarter, but the Wolves looked the better of the two sides in the early exchanges and Ashton Sims almost burst over the line from close range, but couldn’t take in Brad Dwyer’s short pass.
The 22 year-old hooker had come on to replace Ben Harrison, who was forced off due to concussion and did not return to the field after being checked over by the doctor.
Rovers began to get a foothold into the game as the rain began to fall more heavily and got their first points of the afternoon on 25 minutes through Mantellato’s try in the corner.
Albert Kelly delayed his pass to Kieran Dixon who did well to find the winger who touched down with a diving finish in the corner. However, he could not convert his try and Hull KR trailed by two.
Two minutes later and Rovers were in again, this time Ken Sio scored in the opposite corner. Kelly launched a huge kick up and the former Parramata Eel winger stormed down field before outjumping Gene Ormsby to win the ball and score.
Chris Hill was penalised for preventing Kelly from playing the ball 10 metres from the Wolves line and Mantellato opted to take the two points on offer and extended Rovers lead to six points going into the half-time break.
Warrington almost levelled the game up at the start of the second half; Richie Myler’s low kick hit the upright but O’Brien couldn’t collect the loose ball.
Instead, moments later, Stefan Ratchford spilled a high kick, giving the Robins a chance to add more points to their lead.
Kevin Larroyer reached out to ground the ball on the line from the resulting set, despite being tackled by Atkins, Ratchford and Roy Asotasi. The video referees awarded the try, ruling out a possible double movement and Mantellato added the extras.
Mantellato added another two points when the Wolves were penalised for a ball steal in the tackle, putting three scores between the two sides with a little over 30 minutes to play.
Just before the hour mark Myler scored to give the Wolves’ fans hope of a comeback. The Catalans Dragons-bound scrum-half threw a dummy before squeezing between Larroyer and Liam Salter to score.
Captain Joel Monaghan almost reduced the deficit further when he attempted to dive over in the corner, but Dixon did just enough to force the big winger to lose his grip on the ball before he went crashing into the advertising hoardings.
With 13 minutes remaining Warrington did manage to score, Daryl Clark and Myler combined to send Ben Currie over and O’Brien maintained his 100% record with the boot to get his side to within two points of the Robins.
Kelly, who was superb in attack and defence for Rovers, put a big hit in on Joe Philbin as the Wolves threatened a break away into Robins territory.
Warrington’s offload game wasn’t working as they pushed for the points they needed to retake the lead and instead it was Rovers who claimed the next try to book their place at Wembley.
Shaun Lunt broke through Ratchford’s tackle and crawled over the whitewash to ground the ball. The video referees were once again asked to decide and they ruled in favour of Rovers, who’s fans were jubilant.
Mantellato held his nerve to convert to put eight points between the sides with just three minutes to go.
Chester’s men saw out the remaining time and to confirm their place in the Challenge Cup Final against holders Leeds at the end of the month.
Man of the Match: Albert Kelly – Outstanding kicking game throughout, controlled the game when Rovers led and set up Sio’s try. Sensational in defence too, epitomised by his shot on Philbin with 10 minutes or so left to play.