Hull KR’s regular season enters its final month – with four key games to salvage their top-eight aims.
Tim Sheens last week asked his team to treat the remaining matches as a ‘new campaign’ – and his side got off to the best possible start in their Super 8s assault.
Beating Huddersfield Giants 37-10 at KCOM Craven Park on Friday night, Rovers still have a chance of shocking Super League with a dramatically late upturn in form.
However, the handful of fixtures remaining provide tough opposition for the Robins, and they remain reliant on other teams to slip up to realise their top-eight dream.
KR reporter Gareth Westmorland analyses the final four ties that await the red and whites.
Salford Red Devils
Sunday July 8, 3pm, KCOM Craven Park.
Almost two years on from the Million Pound Game drama, Salford make their first return to east Hull in what could coincidentally have a huge effect on how the bottom four will shape up.
The Red Devils are just one point ahead of Rovers in tenth spot, and have a marginally better points difference. However, coach Ian Watson has made no secret of the fact that Salford are struggling for bodies and as such, this is a huge opportunity for KR to strike.
Especially on the back of last Friday’s win over Huddersfield, Rovers have the chance to string back-to-back Super League wins for the first time in three years. It’s a hoodoo they’ll seek to end on home soil this weekend.
Salford were convincing winners in the reverse fixture in March but with key bodies returning for the Robins, they’ll be confident heading into the Round 20 fixture and simply put, there’ll be a huge circle around this match with a ‘must-win’ label attached.
Saturday July 14, 3pm, Halton Stadium
Again, another fixture which should bring two points home for the Robins. Widnes, residing at the foot of the table and five points behind Rovers, are all-but nailed on for a bottom-two finish.
Whilst the Vikings produced a gutsy display in their recent loss to Hull FC, they’ve posted just three wins on the board all season and are guaranteed a Qualifiers berth.
Become complacent, however, and Francis Cummins’ men can thrive from a sniff of a chance.
Rovers got the better of Widnes in early April, winning 31-12 at KCOM Craven Park. The myth of the iPitch is something KR must overcome but you’d back the red and whites to arrive back across the M62, in their final game outside of Hull, with the spoils in their locker.
Friday July 20, 8pm, KCOM Craven Park
Despite a brave effort in the Halliwell Jones Stadium contest in mid-April, Rovers cannot be expected to win this penultimate match – but try telling that to Tim Sheens’ men!
The Wolves are sitting pretty in the top-four at present, two points off second place with 13 wins from 19. A 40-26 success over KR was key as it could have been a potential banana skin for Steve Price’s side.
Rovers will fancy taking the match to the Wire – literally – but even the most optimistic of KR fans will not predict a victory on this occasion.
The Robins can pretty much only afford to lose one of their remaining four matches and you have to say that this one, on paper, is the most likely. Yet stranger things have happened so far in Rovers’ Super League campaign.
Friday July 27, 7.45pm, KCOM Stadium
What a mouth-watering fixture this is proving to be. Hull FC are clinging onto their top-four hopes and a win over the Robins here, a third in 2018, would go a long way towards a strong position in the Super 8s.
But for KR, it may well prove to be all or nothing. We don’t know how the league will shape up in four weeks’ time, nor do we know what the teams’ health will be like, but Rovers will give it as good as they have got.
What a time it would be to end FC’s derby dominance in recent years. Impossible to predict, impossible to ignore. One thing is clear – Rovers will be determined that their top-eight chase prolongs until the final kick, pass or tackle of this highly-anticipated contest.
The run-ins of KR’s rivals
CATALANS DRAGONS FIXTURES: Wakefield Trinity (A), Warrington Wolves (A), Salford Red Devils (H), Wigan Warriors (A)
LEEDS RHINOS FIXTURES: Castleford Tigers (A), Wakefield Trinity (H), Widnes Vikings (H), Salford Red Devils (A)
HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS FIXTURES: Hull FC (H), Wigan Warriors (H), Castleford Tigers (A), Wakefield Trinity (H)
How many games do you think Hull KR will win in July?
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SALFORD RED DEVILS FIXTURES: Hull KR (A), Castleford Tigers (H), Catalans Dragons (A), Leeds Rhinos (H)
WIDNES VIKINGS FIXTURES: St Helens (A), Hull KR (H), Leeds Rhinos (A), Castleford Tigers (H)