Hull KR edged a close game with Bradford Bulls by the narrowest of margins as conditions took a turn for the worse at Bloomfield Road for the final game of day one of the Summer Bash.
Bradford shocked Rovers early when James Bentley slid over and Oscar Thomas goaled.
The Bulls continued a high intensity start with Dane Chisholm, once of Hull KR buzzing around the middle. After forcing a drop out, Bradford couldn’t hold onto the ball in difficult weather.
Top of the table Rovers held firm and almost opened their account after ten minutes when Jamie Ellis knocked on over the line. Chisholm then kicked the ball out on the full.
Bradford continued to test Rovers before the Robins responded through Andrew Heffernan. As the wind and rain swirled, Ellis converted to draw Hull KR level at 6-all.
With 22 minutes gone Hull KR forced a drop out and Ben Cockayne was fortunate when he attempted an off-load that was knocked on by Bradford.
The Bulls defended and despite Thomas being pinned in his own twenty following Jordan Abdull’s long kick, a penalty pushed them downfield with Jordan Lilley controlling things and forcing a drop out after 29 minutes.
The wind assisted kick went sixty metres but the Bulls brought it back into range before Lilley drilled a kick to the floor.
Abdull cleaned up and another burst by Heffernan got Rovers in Bradford territory. Again the Bulls chased, harried and then cleared their lines on the back of Jordan Lilley’s field kicking.
With eight minutes of the half remaining, the sides continued to go set for set but an attempted chip from Lilley was swept up.
The deadlock was broken after 35 minutes when Chisholm added a drop goal to nudge the Bulls back in front.
It was a half full of honest work by the likes of Sam Hallas, Liam Kirk and on-loan Leeds forwards Cameron Smith and Mikolaj Oledski.
With just half a minute remaining Bradford conceded a penalty and up stepped Ellis to ensure it was advantage Rovers at the break by the narrowest of margins.
Conditions continued to dominate the second half with handling errors rising.
Four minutes into the second half several Bulls players were caught offside by referee Tom Grant but Ellis could not add to Rovers score.
The drop-out gave the Bulls a chance to regroup but the likes of Shaun Lunt sent Rovers upfield. He was at fault for the next penalty conceded which invited the Bulls onto the line.
Scott Moore and Sam Hallas went close before Chisholm’s low kick forced Ryan Shaw to kick the ball dead. Abdull kicked the drop out long but the Bulls continued to push for position – Ross Peltier carrying them inside the twenty before Kieran Moss shut down the move.
Within three tackles Rovers had gone sixty metres through Heffernan, Moss and Joe Cator and the back-pedaling Bulls through Bentley conceded a penalty. Up stepped Ellis and this time there was no mistake with the penalty. Hull KR led 10-7 after 53 minutes.
Rovers looked set to add to their advantage but when Maurice Blair became impatient and popped the ball out, Dane Chisholm intercepted and ran ninety metres. The try was referred upstairs to Phil Bentham and awarded. Thomas goaled from the touchline and the Bulls led 13-10.
An excellent kick from Abdull forced an error from Thomas. Ethan Ryan dropped on the ball from an offside position. Rovers quickly spread play right and Blair got his pass right on this occasion for Heffernan to score his second try of the game. Ellis couldn’t convert from wide on the right and it was 14-13 to Rovers after 58 minutes.
Thomas became a key figure and spilled the next high kick that headed his way. Chisholm rescued the situation with a thrilling intercept from the base of the scrum that took him 55 metres before a brilliant cover tackle from Abdull dislodged the ball.
The game was held up for several minutes as Chisholm received attention on the field. The Bulls half-back was able to rise to continue but the error gave Rovers possession on their own twenty metre line.
With sixteen minutes remaining Josh Johnson forced an error but the ball was spilled from the scrum by Ben Cockayne.
Bradford kept plugging away and broke the line before Bentley was penalised for passing off the floor in the last ten minutes.
Abdull launched a kick to the corner on the last with Jonny Campbell losing the ball into touch. From the possession Abdull scored with dart and spin to the line.
That made it 18-13 and Ellis struck the conversion to make it 20-13. Rob Mulhern offered Bradford hope when he spilled the restart to concede a drop out.
Jordan Lilley accepted the challenge, kicking through for Ethan Ryan to score and Thomas made it a one point game again with the goal.
Into the last four minutes Bradford tore forward but Scott Moore kicked too long, giving Hull KR a seven tackle set at a crucial time. Abdull popped up at the end to force a drop out.
Bradford kicked short and didn’t make the ten and Docker Clay tapped. Rovers worked through their set and put the ball in touch giving Bradford one more chance. Lilley hoofed the ball downfield with Cockayne chasing back to collect the ball and the two points.
Hull KR: Ben Cockayne, Kieran Moss, Jake Butler-Fleming, Andrew Heffernan, Ryan Shaw; Jordan Abdull, Jamie Ellis; Nick Scruton, Shaun Lunt, Josh Johnson, Maurice Blair, Danny Addy, Ben Kavanagh. Subs: Rob Mulhern, Liam Salter, Zach Docker-Clay, Joe Cator.
Bradford: Oscar Thomas, Iliess Macani, Ethan Ryan, James Bentley, Jonny Campbell; Jordan Lilley, Dane Chisholm; Jon Magrin, Sam Hallas, Liam Kirk, Cameron Smith, Colton Roche, Ross Peltier. Subs: Mikolaj Oledzki, Scott Moore, Joe Keyes, James Davies.
Referee: T. Grant.
(Image permission: Richard Long)