St Helens returned to the top of Super League with a dramatic golden point victory over Hull KR.
Theo Fages’ drop goal earned the champions a 21-20 win after the Robins had forced extra time with a late Will Dagger penalty at the end of another fine performance.
Ethan Ryan’s acrobatic finish in the right corner, expertly goaled by Dagger, had dragged the Robins back within two as they refused to back down despite trailing 20-12 in the final quarter.
The champions couldn’t break the resolve of the Robins, who defended stoutly, just as they did in the impressive win over Wigan a week ago.
They paid their opponents the utmost respect in taking a penalty at goal on eight minutes, after Will Dagger had dropped a high kick to give Saints a repeat set, and the full-back’s restart going out on the full ensured the pressure remained on the Robins.
Dagger atoned for those errors by ground a dangerous Lachlan Coote dab through to the in-goal, and when Saints did eventually cross for a try through Jonny Lomax on 17 minutes, they were pulled back for an obstruction.
After spending virtually the whole opening quarter on the back foot, Hull KR had their first foray in to the danger zone although a disappointing last tackle kick by Mikey Lewis soon had Saints on the counter attack, with Shaun Kenny-Dowall forced in to decisive action in his own in-goal off James Roby’s kick.
But after all that, it was Hull KR who got the first try of the game on 24 minutes, a lovely delayed pass by Jordan Abdull sent Dean Hadley romping to the line.
That led to a period of pressure from the Robins, with Jack Welsby spilling a towering Abdull kick, though they couldn’t add to their 6-2 lead.
Saints finally broke the whitewash on 34 minutes, gifted possession in midfield by a loose offload by Matt Parcell, that was compounded by Nathaniel Peteru conceding a repeat set by interfering in the tackle, and this time Saints weren’t to be denied, as they worked the ball left and Lomax found Wales international Regan Grace to score in the corner.
The next try came in the other corner, as Jack Welsby got the second half off to a positive start for Saints, putting them 14-6 up, and he had another one denied by a forward pass.
But Hull KR wouldn’t go away, and when a kick came loose, Kenny-Dowall pounced to touch down.
Alex Walmsley crashed over on the hour mark to stretch Saints back out to an eight point lead, but they just couldn’t deliver the telling blow against Tony Smith’s side, who continue to earn respect for their endeavours since the restart.
A sign of Saints’ frustration showed when James Graham was penalised for dissent after being ruled to have knocked on with eight minutes to play, and the drama followed.
Kenny-Dowall’s excellent one handed pass gave Ryan it all to do in the corner, the former Bradford winger finishing superbly and Dagger’s conversion put the Robins within two and with all the momentum.
They worked their way up field, forced a repeat set, and were then awarded a penalty for a high shot by Kevin Naiqama, that saw him sinbinned. With less than two minutes left, the Robins opted to go for goal and Dagger converted superbly for 20-all.
Hull KR received the kick-off in extra time, and though they got to the Saints’ 30 metre line, couldn’t create space for a drop goal.
Lachlan Coote narrowly missed with Saints’ first attempt, but after a set restart gave the hosts a fresh set bang in front of the posts, Fages took advantage to win the game and put them back above Warrington and Catalans in the table.
St Helens: Coote, Welsby, Naiqama, Simm, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Graham, Taia, Bentley, Knowles. Subs: Peyroux, Lees, Amor, Smith.
Hull KR: Dagger, Ryan, Kenny-Dowall, Linnett, Minikin, Abdull, Lewis, Hauraki, Litten, Lawler, Storton, Hadley, Minchella. Subs: Parcell, Murray, Garbutt, Peteru.