Plymouth Albion (15) vs Rotherham Titans (3) - Championship
Along the Titans back line Mike Doneghan gets his first start after impressing as a replacement againstJersey; he starts on the left wing replacing Peter Homan. Lee Blackett returns from a dead-leg and will start at outside centre. Blackett’s return means Club Captain Garry Law switches to fly half; relegating James McKinney to a bench spot.
Jamie Kilbane and Ted Stagg come into the front row for Shane Cahill and Dan Baines, both of whom are expected to make an impact from the bench. Dan Sanderson starts at lock, whilst Carl Kirwan and Toby Freeman return at blind side and number 8.
Rotherham are fully aware of the challenge that a rejuvenated Albion will pose. The Devon-based side have made a bright start to the Championship, winning three of their four matches to date and currently sit 3rd in the table.
The teams have faced each other in the league on 20 previous occasions, withRotherhamedging the overall tally 11-8 with one draw. However, Titans have only won once in their last eight visits to Brickfields and that’s a record they will be aiming to improve upon Friday evening.
Titans Head Coach Andre Bester recognising the challenge ahead said, “It’s always tough going down toPlymouthand we don’t have a great record down there, although our matches tend to be very close affairs and I expect more of the same on Friday.
“We’ve prepared forPlymouthwith the greatest of respect, as we do for all our opponents. We need to stick to our game plan and make sure we execute the basics efficiently. If we are successful in doing that, we should give ourselves an opportunity to get the result we all desire.”
Titans: 15 Mike Whitehead, 14 Eamonn Sheridan, 13 Lee Blackett, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Mike Doneghan, 10 Garry Law (Capt.), 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Ross Davies, 4 Neale Patrick, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Alex Rieder, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Toby Freeman.
Replacements: 16 Dan Baines, 17 Shane Cahill, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Rory Pitman, 20 Peter Homan, 21 Joel Gill, 22 James McKinney.
Rotherham returned from the South West with their pockets empty, following their 15-3 defeat to a very decent Plymouth Albion side on home soil. Titans conceded as early as the 4th minute when Albion fly half Paul Roberts knocked over a penalty from 30 metres out, following a Titans infringement at the breakdown.
Plymouth no doubt started the better, but Rotherham got back on level terms after 14 minutes with a Garry Law penalty. Shortly after Rotherham burst into life when Ted Stagg made what is fast becoming a trademark break; he made 30 metres before off-loading to Jamie Kilbane who took play deep into Albion territory. Unfortunately for the visitors the move broke down and Albion cleared their lines.
Titans continued to have some decent possession, but repeated handling errors cost them crucial momentum and allied to that some lacklustre kicking from hand did not help their cause.
As the half drew to a close Plymouth set up a catch and drive from a line out which resulted in referee David Rose awarding the visitors a penalty try. Roberts converted to give Albion a 10-3 advantage. Just before the break Titans had an opportunity to reduce the deficit, unfortunately Law pushed his near 40 metre effort just wide of the posts.
Titans suffered a disappointing start to the second half, as just 3 minutes in Pale Nonu was yellow carded for a high tackle. Albion took advantage of the extra man and an exquisite cross-field kick by Roberts found flying winger Paul Bailey on the right flank, who collected nicely to touch down in the corner.
A minute after Nonu rejoined the fray, Dan Sanderson was given a 10 minute spell in the bin following an infringement at the line out. Despite being a man short again, Rotherham almost scored themselves following fine work by Rieder, Nonu and Blackett. Yet again, outstanding defensive work by Albion turned Rotherham over just 2 metres from the try line.
Both sides continued to defend excellently throughout when the need arose. Into injury time and Titans had one last throw of the dice to try and collect a losing bonus point. From a 5 metre line out Rotherham committed around a dozen men to the maul as they went for a pushover try. However, referee Rose spotted an infringement and awarded the hosts a penalty. Albion cleared and celebrated accordingly, leaving the Titans not particularly looking forward to the long journey home.
Post match Andre Bester remarked, “I thought we played well and didn’t get anything and we have nothing to show for our efforts. I thought the boy’s effort was 100% and I couldn’t have asked for anymore than that. We were a little impatient at times and it’s sad that we didn’t get a return on the effort the boys put in. The result is not fatal to our aspirations for the remainder of the season.”
Referee: David Rose
Yellow Card: Pale Nonu, Dan Sanderson.
Titans: Garry Law (P).
Plymouth Albion: Penalty Try, Paul Bailey (T), Paul Roberts (1P, 1C).
Titans: 15 Mike Whitehead (James McKinney 52), 14 Eamonn Sheridan, 13 Lee Blackett, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Mike Doneghan, 10 Garry Law (Capt.), 9 Jimmy Williams (Joel Gill 69), 1 Jamie Kilbane (Shane Cahill 52), 2 Ted Stagg (Dan Baines 52), 3 Ross Davies (Gareth Denman 69), 4 Neale Patrick (Rory Pitman 35), 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Alex Rieder, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Toby Freeman.
Replacements: 16 Jan-Francois Bester, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Shane Cahill, 19 Rory Pitman, 20 Dan Baines, 21 Joel Gill, 22 James McKinney.
Plymouth Albion: 15 Henry Slade, 14 Paul Bailey (Rhodri McAtee 70), 13 Toby Howley-Berridge, 12 Bevon Armitage, 11 Jack Arnott, 10 Paul Roberts, 9 Ruairi Cushion, 1 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 2 Jon Vickers (Tom Cowan-Dickie 64), 3 Lloyd Fairbrother (David Morton 70), 4 Brett Beukeboom, 5 Ien Ascroft-Leigh (Aaron Carpenter 64), 6 Wayne Sprangle (Rupeni Nasiga 64), 7 Sam Hocking, 8 Sean-Michael Stephen (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Rhodri McAtee, 17 David Morton, 18 Rupeni Nasiga, 19 Jack Andrew, 20 Tom Cowan-Dickie, 21 Aaron Carpenter, 22 Keni Fisilau.