Hull KR produced one of the biggest upsets in Super League play-off history with a 19-0 victory at Warrington Wolves to move to within 80 minutes of a maiden Grand Final.
The shock result, masterminded by former Warrington Wolves coach Tony Smith, brought to an abrupt end the three-year reign of his successor Steve Price, who will return to Australia with the big prize still eluding him.
The Robins’ reward is a semi-final against League Leaders’ Shield winners Catalans Dragons in Perpignan next Thursday. Defending champions St Helens will host Leeds 24 hours later to determine the make-up of the October 9 title decider at Old Trafford.
Hull KR defied the absence of nine senior players to condemn the Wolves to a third successive home play-off defeat and leave them still looking for a first Grand Final triumph.
Their hero was former Hull and London Broncos half-back Jordan Abdull, who underlined his Man of Steel credentials with a masterful display, capped by a try, three goals and a drop goal.
It was a disappointing way for long-serving prop Chris Hill to end his Warrington career but he could have no complaints over the result.
With the exception of England prop Mike Cooper, who was suspended, Price could choose from a full-strength squad and opted to leave out former England winger Josh Charnley and Leeds-bound half-back Blake Austin.
Conversely, the late withdrawal of forwards George Lawler and Korbin Sims meant the visitors were without nine senior players, including winger Ryan Hall and hooker Matt Parcell.
They looked to be in further trouble when centre Brad Takairangi went off with a head injury after 11 minutes but he was able to return after passing his concussion test.
Warrington Wolves woes
The first half was littered with handling errors. Three of them inside the first three minutes – which prevented either side from building pressure.
Warrington Wolves looked threatening in the early stages, especially through hooker Daryl Clark, who looked set to score the first try until losing his grip on the ball as he struggled to reach the line, but their last-kick options let their opponents off the hook.
Hull KR had to weather an early onslaught before taking the lead through Abdull, who dummied his way over after 15 minutes and added the conversion.
When Wolves centre Jake Mamo and stand-off George Williams both went close at the other end, Rovers captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall and winger Ben Crooks came to the rescue with last-ditch tackles which illustrated their team’s hunger and desire.
Even down to 12 men with the sin-binning of substitute prop Albert Vete for a high tackle on Gareth Widdop, Smith’s men maintained their resolve to protect their lead.
A handling error 10 metres from his own line by young Warrington substitute Ellis Longstaff put his side under pressure just before half-time but Abdull was wide with a drop-goal attempt.
Final nail in the coffin
Trailing 6-0 at the break, Warrington opened up the visitors’ defence through full-back Stefan Ratchford. But again Rovers scrambled superbly and they quickly struck again to double their lead.
Mikey Lewis intuitively chipped over the Wolves defence 20 metres out and won a foot race with Ratchford to grab the decisive touch.
Abdull converted his own try to make it 12-0 and stretched the lead with a penalty before left winger Jimmy Keinhorst, one of the players brought in by Smith to plug the gaps, made sure of the win after 67 minutes by taking full-back Will Dagger’s pass to score his side’s third try.
Abdull then put the finishing touches to a magnificent performance with a drop goal to clinch a memorable victory.