ST Helens paid the price for the first-half dismissal of Francis Meli as they fell at the first hurdle of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup for the first time for 18 years.
Rovers followed up their recent Super League win over Saints to claim a notable fourth round cup success as Nathan Brown’s first season at Langtree Park goes from bad to worse.
Referee Richard Silverwood had already put two St Helens players, Jon Wilkin and Ade Gardner, on report for late shoulder charges before he produced a red card for Meli eight minutes before the break for an horrific-looking high tackle on Rovers’ two-try winger Craig Hall.
Already leading 12-6 by then, Hull KR took advantage of the extra man to extend their lead to 10 points at the break and they held off a spirited fightback from their visitors in the second half to secure their place in Monday’s fifth round draw.
Beaten in three of their previous four League matches, the visitors looked desperately short of confidence from the start and they quickly began to pay for their indiscipline.
Rovers built pressure on the back of three penalties and took the lead when Hall collected lively full-back Greg Eden’s kick to the corner to touch down by the posts for his first try.
They missed a glorious chance when winger David Hodgson dropped Kris Welham’s pass with the line open but made no mistake on 17 minutes when prop Mickey Paea took hooker Josh Hodgson’s neat reverse pass to crash over for his first try of the season.
Michael Dobson’s second goal made it 12-0 but Saints gave themselves hope when they kept the ball alive superbly for centre Jordan Turner to get Gardner over for a 25th-minute try.
Tom Makinson’s touchline conversion cut the deficit to just six points but the dismissal of Meli looked to have left them with too much to do.
Dobson and his half-back partner Travis Burns combined to create an overlap and centre Liam Salter put Hall away for his second try six minutes before half-time.
It looked a lost cause for Saints but full-back Makinson sparked the fightback with a break out of defence at the start of the season half.
His 40-metre run created the position for skipper Paul Wellens to touch down in fortuitous fashion after Wilkin’s grubber kick bounced off Eden into his hands.
Buoyed by the try, 12-man Saints managed to create an overlap eight minutes later for second rower Sia Soliola to send Mark Percival over for another and Makinson’s third goal edged his side in front for the first time.
The lead lasted only six minutes however as the Robins gained their second wind.
Eden produced a spectacular finish only to have the try disallowed for an earlier knock-on but, not to be denied, he dummied his way over a minute later and Dobson’s third goal made it 22-18.
Young forwards Alex Walmsley and Joe Greenwood did their best to rally Saints in a pulsating finale but Hull KR clinched the win six minutes from the end when Salter gathered Eden’s kick to cross for their fifth try.