Warrington travel to KCOM Craven Park in East Hull for the third time in eight weeks on Saturday having beaten Hull Kingston Rovers in a Super League game on Easter Monday and knocked them out of the Coral Challenge Cup at the quarter final stage on May 31.
This next encounter has special significance given that our former head coach Tony Smith has now been appointed to the same role with the Robins.
Tony has been out of the game since he left the Wire at the end of the 2017 season and will be aiming to repeat the sort of mid-season turnaround he achieved with us back in 2009 to keep the Robins safe from relegation.
Tony has succeeded the Australian Tim Sheens who left the club last week and he says that greater positivity in the game generally was one of the reasons he has accepted the challenge.
We also defeated the Robins in the second league game of this season at the Halliwell Jones and a fourth victory of the season over the red and whites will keep us well ahead of the pack chasing St Helens at the top of the table following our decisive win against third-placed Catalans Dragons last Saturday.
The Robins are firmly entrenched one place from the foot of the table after their single point home defeat against the Wigan Warriors on Sunday while London in 12th have the same number of league points.
Yet KR put up a terrific fight-back against us in the cup tie, recovering from 22-0 down with three tries in a 20-minute spell in the second half which enabled them to be still chasing the game in the dying minutes.
An early try from Jake Mamo gave us the lead and a superb offload by Bryson Goodwin enabled Blake Austin to race over just before the interval in a fine riposte to a continual battering of the Wire line by the Robins when for a time we were two men down with Tom Lineham and Declan Patton being sent to the sin bin.
The first 15 minutes of the second half also belonged to us with tries from Lineham straight from the restart and Ben Murdoch Masila. With Patton having kicked three conversions out of four we were coasting but the Robins were nothing if not resilient.
A try for Ben Crooks and two from Josh Drinkwater along with two goals from former Wire Academy player Ryan Shaw brought them into the game. A bomb from Austin was palmed back to him by Toby King and the Australian half back enabled Ben Currie to dive over and settle the nerves.
Patton converted to make it 28-16 but the Robins came again, Craig Hall touching down and Shaw adding the extras. In a nerve-jangling finish England Knight Chris Atkin kicked to the corner but King was able to push the ball dead.
The game had been nothing like the encounter on Easter Monday when we cruised to a 54-6 victory after the Robins had scored first. Lineham and Joe Philbin each touched down twice and our other tries came from Goodwin, Austin, King, Josh Charnley and Sitaleki Akauola. Stefan Ratchford contributed nine goals.
In our second game of the campaign at the HJ we won 28-14 when Harvey Livett scored two tries with one each for Charnley, Lineham and Mike Cooper while Ratchford landed four goals.
This after the Robins had won their opener against city rivals Hull FC. German international Jimmy Keinhorst, making his debut in red and white, dived over in the corner to score the winning try just 10 seconds from the end of that match.
Unfortunately Lineham will not be able to trouble the Robins defence once again this week after receiving a three match suspension resulting from his sin-binning but Jake Mamo will be available again after his one-game ban for another incident in the cup tie.
Despite their inconsistent displays during the present campaign the Rovers are confident they will be in Super League next season.
In addition to naming Tony Smith to spearhead the coaching they have, in recent weeks, signed Antoni Maria from the Catalans Dragons – from where Drinkwater was acquired – and have completed a deal for Greg Minikin to move to East Hull from Castleford for 2020.
It is not yet known if Tony Smith will continue to be involved at the club next season.
Coaching guru John Bastian, once of Warrington and latterly at Bradford, has been enlisted as head of youth development as the club end their joint Academy venture with Hull FC to “go it alone” next term. And veteran half back Danny McGuire will become head of recruitment when he retires at the end of this season.
These appointments build on the lively recruitment policy at the start of the campaign which included the signings of Drinkwater and Keinhorst along with Mitch Garbutt and former North Queensland Cowboys star Kane Linnett, who can play both in the threequarters and the pack.
They joined five players who moved to Craven Park last year: Will Dagger who made several appearances at full back for Wire, forward Joel Tomkins from Wigan who was voted by the players to captain the side, fellow pack members Weller Hauraki, once of Widnes Vikings, and Ryan Lannon formerly of Salford, and winger Craig Hall who returned to the club after spells with Wakefield Trinity, Toronto Wolfpack and Leigh Centurions.
Among other outstanding players whom Smith will be working with during the coming months will be England prop and loose forward Robbie Mulhern, the powerful Samoan international Mose Masoe and hooker Tommy Lee.
Already a great talent is young George Lawler, a product of the Academy who can play at nine and 13.
United States international centre Junior Vaivai is currently playing on loan at York City Knights.
Half back and hooker Danny Addy is back to his best after missing the whole of last season but illness and injury have continued to blight the club so far this term.
Hooker and former captain Shaun Lunt’s career has been upset by a serious infection diagnosed last year and centre Ben Crooks sustained a broken vertebra back in February.
Forward Nick Scruton and full back Adam Quinlan are recovering from injuries, back rower James Greenwood has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury and forward Lee Jewitt has decided to take a break from the game to recover from a succession of injuries.