England winger Ryan Hall scored a hat-trick of tries on his return to Super
League but ended up on the losing side as Hull KR were beaten 29-28 by Catalans Dragons in golden-point extra-time.
The 33-year-old Hall sparkled on his debut for Tony Smith’s men as they fought back from 28-4 down to level the scores four minutes from the end with a try from George King on the 150th appearance of his career.
That meant extra-time at Headingley and it was the Dragons’ Australian half-back James Maloney who came up with the crucial drop goal after 90 seconds to secure the French club’s first opening-round win since 2017.
The result was tough on former Leeds man Hall, who failed to score during his two seasons in the NRL with Sydney Roosters but quickly rediscovered his touch on his return to Headingley as he took his Super League total of tries to 199.
There was also a try-scoring debut for 22-year-old centre Mathieu Laguerre, who was given his chance by Catalans coach Steve McNamara in the absence of Samisoni Langi, Arthur Romano and Israel Folau.
There was little hint of the drama to come when the Dragons scored from their first attack, with winger Foud Yaha getting over the line in the fifth minute for the first of his two tries.
Ten minutes later Laguerre made his mark when he offloaded out of the tackle to get second rower Matt Whitley over the line and Maloney’s second goal made it 12-0.
Hall opened his account for Rovers after 25 minutes, pouncing on a loose ball after the Catalans’ handling broke down 40 metres out from their own line.
But Jordan Abdull failed with the conversion and the Hull KR defence cracked again two minutes before half-time when the ever-dangerous Sam Tomkins put Laguerre over for his try and Maloney’s third goal made it 18-4 at the break.
Even the presence on the sidelines of their stricken former team-mate Mose Masoe could not, it seemed, inspire Rovers, who saw the game slip further away from them after conceding two more tries within 10 minutes of the restart.
New captain Benjamin Garcia raced on to Josh Drinkwater’s clever grubber kick which bounced kindly and Yaha produced a strong finish for his second try after taking in Tomkins’ long pass.
That took the Catalans’ lead to a seemingly invincible 28-4, but Rovers had other ideas as they struck back with two tries in three minutes.
Nineteen-year-old half-back Mikey Lewis grabbed an opportunist score and Hall gathered in full-back Adam Quinlan’s pass to cross for his second.
Abdull kicked both conversions to cut the deficit to 12 points and the French side were reduced to 12 men on 66 minutes when prop Julien Bousquet was sin-binned for his part in a scuffle.
Five minutes later Hall chased Abdull’s kick to complete his hat-trick and the latter’s successful conversion meant there were just six points between the teams.
The Catalans then lost Tomkins with a head injury and Bousquet returned to the field in time to see King plough through the Dragons’ defence to score his first try since the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 2018.
Abdull’s fourth goal tied the scores and Rovers appeared to have the momentum in extra-time, only for substitute full-back Arthur Mourgue to come up with a break that created the position for Maloney to kick the match winner.
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