Rampant Robins, an awful night for one Leigh Leopards man, another case for the video referee to answer – Five Takeaways as Hull KR progress into Super League semi-finals

Ben Olawumi
Ryan Hall try v Leigh

Ryan Hall scores a try for Hull KR - Alamy

Hull KR will travel to either Wigan Warriors or Catalans Dragons in the Super League play-off semi-finals after beating Leigh Leopards 20-6 at Craven Park in tonight’s first ‘Eliminator’ tie.

Here are our five takeaways from the press box in East Hull…

Rampant Robins rock Craven Park

Willie Peters’ side won their last four in the regular Super League season, and stole home advantage in this tie off Leigh at the eleventh hour.

Midway through that winning run, the KR head coach urged his team to chase that last Craven Park game in 2023, and having got it, they made it count.

Described by Sky Sports pre-game as ‘chaos’, the Robins caused issues for Leigh throughout with their ability to offload and continue pushing up the field. By half time, they’d made circa 200 metres more than their opponents.

Whether they’re heading down the M62 to Wigan next week, or hopping on a plane over to the South of France and Catalans, you can guarantee the East Hull faithful will turn up in their numbers. They’ll head to either as underdogs, but on the basis of tonight’s performance, won’t fear anyone.

Parcell-ed up by Matt

Hooker Matt Parcell has been hugely impressive for the Robins throughout 2023, and had a big role tonight as they progressed into the last four of the competition.

Leigh struggled to deal with his quick ruck speed, the Queensland-born ace one of the main differences between the two sides, particularly in the first 40 which for the most part saw a very tight scoreline.

He was the man responsible for the try which pulled KR away from their opponents, forcing the error from Gareth O’Brien in the tackle, as we’ve detailed below.

Parcell couldn’t quite get over the line himself, but teammate Ryan Hall ensured his hard work wouldn’t count for nothing as he overpowered the Leythers defence to get it down – or did he?…

A night to forget for Leigh’s Gareth O’Brien

Losing a game is never really just one man’s fault, and he’s been one of best performers for Adrian Lam’s men all year, but Gareth O’Brien really did save his worst till last.

The veteran full-back has happy Craven Park memories having kicked the drop goal which kept Salford Red Devils up in 2016, sending KR down in the process, but will want to erase tonight from his thoughts as soon as possible.

Looking uncomfortable all evening long, O’Brien misjudged two high kicks in the first half before being responsible for the try on the stroke of half time which saw the game get away from the Leopards, allowing the ball to be stripped off him by Parcell one-on-one.

At the restart, he then knocked on immediately, again misjudging the flight of the ball, and the hosts crossed oncemore via Sam Luckley. Leigh never recovered from that.

Leopards lacklustre in attack

Before this game, the main noise from the Leigh camp was related to their absentee list, with owner Derek Beaumont vowing to strengthen the depth of their squad ahead of 2024.

Pre-match, the new broke that the Leopards are in pursuit of Salford superstar Brodie Croft, and a playmaker like the Australian tonight would have been music to boss Lam’s ears.

Missing captain John Asiata, the visitors looked toothless in attack for much of the game, struggling to make metres as we’ve already touched on but failing to capitalise on opportunities when they did eventually get themselves into a good area.

They did well to score the six points that they did, because in truth, the Robins defence never truly looked in any real danger. Lam’s side have enjoyed a phenomenal first year back in the top flight, but lessons will be learned, for sure.

Another case to answer for the video referee

Last week’s defeat to Wigan Warriors, which saw Leigh lose the home advantage for tonight’s clash, included an incredibly controversial ‘no try’ call against the Leopards.

The on-field decision was stuck with on that occasion, and something similar happened tonight sparking debate around whether the match referee should send a call up to the video referee with a call of their own at all.

In the four-pointer referred to earlier in this article for veteran winger Hall, Jack Smith sent it up as a try, and it looked that way to those at Craven Park.

Replays though showed that Hall may well not have got the ball grounded, under pressure from numerous defenders including Joe Mellor. But again, with the on-field decision of a try, video referee Chris Kendall said he couldn’t find sufficient evidence to overturn it.

Kendall did though overturn a decision of a try for Leigh, and disallow it, later on in the second half. That one though appeared more clear cut, with an obstruction from, Edwin Ipape.

In the grand scheme of things, Kendall’s decision on Hall’s try tonight was largely irrelevant, but calls for an on-field decision to be scrapped are growing in number and volume.

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