31 Dec 2020

Season Review: Hull Kingston Rovers

It proved to be a tough season on the pitch for Hull KR – they managed just three league wins all year - finishing bottom of the pile for 2020. 

The imminent threat of relegation was put to rest shortly before the resumption of the season in August - allowing Tony Smith to experiment with his squad - resulting in the development of a bold playing style at the back end of the year.

The Robins began 2020 in perfect fashion. Winger Ben Crooks flew to the top of the try scoring charts with an impressive four-try haul during victory against Wakefield Trinity in round one. 

After that, Rovers struggled. The Robins failed to secure another win before the enforced break and went into the lockdown hoping to regroup and start fresh ready for the resumption of the season.

There was an evident change in Hull Kingston Rovers first game after the lockdown - a flamboyant performance against the Wolves surprised many observers - with Hull KR players given a license to play an expansive and open style of rugby.

A visible imbalance between creativity and discipline during that contest quickly saw the game run away from Hull KR, but their admirable performance demonstrated a new found style which allowed them to challenge the perceived bigger teams in the league with a brave and ambitious game plan.

Following another defeat at the hands to champions St Helens, the Robins bold and creative style came to fruition in a dazzling performance during their round 11 fixture against Wigan Warriors. Bottom of the table Hull KR providing the upset of the season as they dismantled League Leaders’ Wigan.

And the Robins proved that their feat against the Warriors was no fluke when they took St Helens into Golden Point the following week - losing in excruciating fashion to a Theo Fages drop goal in the fourth minute of extra time.

Hull KR managed to secure just one more victory following those performances as they succumbed to an eleventh placed finish.

Rovers conceded the most points during the regular season and scored the least number of points, highlighting significant issues in both attack and defence which makes their bottom placed finish no surprise.

Sitting second in the charts for offloads, their open style of play highlighted their desire to keep the ball alive as much as possible - paying dividends during their victory against the Warriors.

The Robins did however miss the most tackles across the regular season and finished second to last in metres gained – only beating Catalan Dragons who played four less games than Rovers.

An expansive style of play will need to be matched by solid foundations in both attack and defence if Hull KR are able to challenge in Super League during the 2021 season.

Player of the year

Elliot Minchella had a solid debut season with Hull KR and was one of the few positives to come from a disappointing season in East Hull. Minchella stood out with his tireless work rate and ability to create opportunities with clever offloads, slick ball movement and support play.

It wasn’t just Minchella’s attack that impressed across the year – He stood up in defence as well. Minchella averaged an impressive 35 tackles per game during the 2020 season, proving to be an all-round performer up front for Rovers. 

Best moment

Hull KR were huge underdogs when they face Wigan with most onlookers predicting a Warriors onslaught. But - to the dismay of the Wigan side - Rovers had other ideas.

Their Round 11 victory against League Leader’s Warriors was a culmination of the Robins new, expansive brand of rugby.

A free-flowing game allowed Rovers to created opportunities from all over the field – piercing through the Warriors defence with darting runs, pinpoint offloads, and the ability to spread the ball across the pitch.

Greg Minikin scored a well-deserved hattrick – the Rovers winger benefitting from the relentless efforts of his teammates to get the Robins on the front foot in attack and defence. 

Grade: D

Despite some promising signs from Tony Smith’s relatively young and inexperienced side, their overall year was disappointing. The Robins leaked far too many points to be competitive in 2020 and will need to fix their defence up to compliment their open and expansive style of play.