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Hull KR

Do Hull KR have the bottle to win a major trophy?

Super League

With today’s 38-6 defeat against Wigan Warriors, Hull KR have now lost four of their five semi-finals in the last four seasons while being defeated in the final of last year’s Challenge Cup Final too. Is it time to ask the hard question regarding their ability to win on the biggest stage?

There’s no doubt that Hull KR are the most exciting project in rugby league right now. The club’s ascent in the past few seasons following their dramatic relegation in the Million Pound Game has been a spectacle to behold, however, it’s all well and good getting to the big games but the novelty soon wears off if you keep losing them.

The first two of those semi-finals came under Tony Smith with the Robins making a shock march to Super League’s playoffs in 2021 where they fell short against Catalans Dragons after nilling Warrington Wolves on the road. That game marked the first of five semi-finals in the space of three years but it’s that losing taste has become all too common for Rovers.

How Hull KR have fared in semi-finals of late

Hull KR

Credit: Imago Images

That 28-10 defeat on the road against Catalans in the Super League playoffs triggered a run of semi-final clashes for Hull KR and whilst there is one win amongst that tally, the rest have been devasting defeats. Not devastating in the same manner as their sole victory though, but instead devastating in the sense that Rovers have been on the end of hammerings.

Semi-final number two came within a year of the first and it marked one of Tony Smith’s last games as Hull KR head coach with the Robins’ naivety being punished by Huddersfield Giants as Ian Watson’s side ran out 25-4 winners. Whilst the loss surely contributed to Smith’s sacking and was obviously a blow to the Robins fans, it wasn’t fatal with the club still firmly on the rise.

A new era then emerged with a somewhat unknown Australian taking on his first head coaching gig. Willie Peters, the one-time Wigan Warriors player, would introduce himself to Super League with a win over Wigan at Craven Park. Shaun Kenny-Dowall scored a hattrick in that game and both coach and captain would be celebrating once again at Headingley months down the line when KR beat Wigan again in the Challenge Cup semi-final. Drop goal drama won them the semi, but lost them the final as Lachlan Lam broke hearts.

The two semi-finals since that summer day back in July have seen Wigan absolutely trounce Hull KR with Matt Peet’s side dispatching Rovers 42-12 in the Super League playoffs. That game saw KR 18-0 down after 15 minutes and today was a similar tale with the game gone by halftime as Wigan ran in five tries to lead 24-0 after 40 minutes.

It would be less concerning for Hull KR if this was simply an issue that they had when playing Wigan Warriors. An inability to beat one team is unfortunate but with the nature of playoff sport, there’s always the chance you can avoid your bogey team. KR’s league wins over Wigan, three in the past two seasons, highlight that perhaps it is a ‘big stage’ issue that the club have.

Hull KR and their unfortunate knack of folding on the big stage

Hull KR

Credit: Imago Images

As much as it would be amazing to see Hull KR break their current hoodoo and win silverware, it seems a distant thought right now and that’s despite recent form that had included victories over both Wigan Warriors and St Helens. Unfortunately, the difference between those wins and today’s defeat is that only one of those games came in a knockout format.

Hull KR have proven that they can beat the big teams, particularly under Willie Peters with Warrington Wolves being the only sides that the Australian is yet to get the best of in his coaching career in England so far. There could have been a chance for Peters and the Robins to right that record at Wembley if they’d progressed today and Warrington do their part tomorrow.

Instead, August 3rd will be the next chance for Peters to get the win over his old mate Sam Burgess but between then and now there will be plenty of soul-searching for Peters, his team and the Hull KR fans. Semi-Final appearances are no longer a novelty for the Robins, they no longer are satisfied by participation medals, and nor should they be, but that big win and taste of silverware eludes them.

Leeds Rhinos used to be the master of timing their run and getting up for the big games with their ‘golden generation’ winning Grand Finals from outside the top two on multiple occasions in part that came due to their ability, but also because of their reputation as a team who ran hot at the right time of the season.

With today’s defeat adding to the other three semi-finals and one final defeat in the past four seasons, it could be the reverse for Hull KR in that they’re earning a reputation as a team that folds when the heat is on.

Silver Linings: Could the floodgates open with just one win?

Credit: Imago Images

For Hull KR today, it’s one to forget but it’s one day and game in a season of many. They will undoubtedly come again and do so in an entertaining fashion. After all, the last time they were on the end of a drubbing they went on to beat Wigan in spectacular fashion.

Sky Sports have had a regular theme this season where they contrast contenders and pretenders but perhaps there is a middle ground where a team like Hull KR can firmly sit; Contender when playing a regular season game, pretender when it turns to a knockout game. For a team that were in the Championship not too long ago, is that a bad place to be? Certainly not.

There are numerous other factors at stake, not least the Robins’ incredible home record relative to their away form (something that was assessed last week), but the major factor right now has to be Hull KR aren’t ‘Mentality Monsters’, to coin a Jurgen Klopp term.

When that eventually does change and they get their hands on that first piece of silverware, that reputation will change overnight and they could become the next major players because as the cricket saying goes; ‘One brings two’.

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