Albert Kelly scored two sensational 90-metre solo tries to help Hull KR shatter St Helens’ 100 per cent record in Super League.
The Australian half-back twice demonstrated exceptional pace to punish errors by the reigning champions to put the Robins on their way to a 24-22 win and leave Saints still looking for a first victory at Craven Park since 2008.
Rovers, who claimed the scalp of Wigan last month, were good value for a third successive home win that rounded off a good day for the club after they earlier announced the notable acquisition of Jamie Peacock as football manager for 2016.
St Helens, who trailed 24-12 with with five minutes to go, could have snatched a point had former Hull KR co-captain Travis Burns been able to convert Jordan Turner’s last-minute try but it would have been tough on the impressive Robins.
Saints stay top of the table but they were a shadow of the side that beat Warrington a week earlier and coach Keiron Cunningham must now pick them up for their Good Friday derby at the DW Stadium.
The champions were unfortunate to lose England hooker James Roby to injury but they made an ideal start when skipper Jon Wilkin, who began his professional career at Craven Park, re-gathered his own grubber kick to touch down and a goal from Burns made it 6-0 after just three minutes.
It was all Saints for the opening quarter but Roby was held up over the line and Kelly twice punished their casual play to put his side in front.
The former Gold Coast Titans scrum-half pounced on Wilkin’s kick for his first long-range try and then picked off Burns’ pass to outsprint the Saints cover for his second.
Josh Mantellato converted both to put the Robins into a 12-6 lead but the champions were back level on 26 minutes when the ball was fed back from Wilkin’s hoisted kick and Atelea Vea got Tom Makinson over at the corner.
Burns landed the difficult conversion but Saints were forced to re-organise their team six minutes from half-time when Roby was forced from the field after taking a head knock.
Lance Hohaia demonstrated his versatility by switching from full-back, where he began as third choice in the absence of Jonny Lomax and Paul Wellens, to hooker, with Makinson going to full-back.
Rovers had a try disallowed when slow-motion replays indicated a knock-on by hooker Shaun Lunt after he re-gathered Terry Campese’s kick but when St Helens winger Adam Swift again demonstrated his fallibility under the high ball his opposite number Ken Sio struck with the home side’s third try two minutes before the break.
The momentum was clearly with the Robins and Saints were forced to survive a torrid time in the third quarter.
Mantellato was wide with a penalty attempt and then had a try disallowed after producing a flying finish at the corner only for slow-motion replays to reveal he was in touch.
Kelly could have doubled his try tally following breaks by Lunt and Kris Welham but Rovers could not apply the finishing touches, and they had to settle for two successful Mantellato penalties to edge them 20-12 ahead.
Hull KR thought they had sealed it when full-back Kieran Dixon went over for a fourth try on 64 minutes but Saints staged a tremendous late fightback which caused some anxious moments for Chris Chester’s men.
Forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook went over on 75 minutes - Burns’ third goal cut the deficit to six points - and Turner took a return pass from Swift to go over four minutes later.