Newcastle Falcons (33) vs Rotherham Titans (0) - Championship
Titans make 7 changes ahead the difficult challenge of facing last season’s Premiership club Newcastle Falcons. In the back line Peter Homan returns from injury and starts on the wing, whilst Jimmy Williams gets a recall at scrum half.
In the forwards, Titans change their front row with Shane Cahill, Dan Baines and Ross Davies all returning to the side, whilst in the back row Carl Kirwan comes in at open side, with Alex Rieder going to number 8 for the injured Rory Pitman.
Titans have played Newcastle in 6 previous league encounters, 4 of which were in the Premiership, but have lost out on every occasion. The last time the two sides met was at Don Valley stadium in May 2004; in front of an attendance of 5,203, Titans suffered a narrow 20-26 defeat. Only Lee Blackett remains at Rotherham from the 22 that day.
With just one defeat in their previous 7 outings Rotherham are in good form, however, no one at the club is underestimating just how difficult a task it is going to Kingston Park.
Titans: 15 Fergus Mulchrone, 14 Peter Homan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Lee Blackett (Capt.), 11 Mike Doneghan, 10 James McKinney, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Ross Davies, 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Nile Dacres, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Alex Rieder.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Joe Ellyatt, 20 Garry Law, 21 Joel Gill, 22 Charlie Mulchrone.
Following a pre-match snow flurry on a bitterly cold evening in the North East, there was little to choose between the sides inside the first 30 minutes. Three Jimmy Gopperth penalties had nudged the hosts into a 9-0 lead, following referee Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts pinging the Titans on a regular basis.
However, 4 minutes before the break the hosts scored the first try of the match when Rory Lawson touched down following some good work by the Falcons forwards. Into first half injury time and Titans lock forward Dan Sanderson was yellow carded for dropping the maul. A minute later and Falcons increased their advantage; when from another penalty, a catch and drive move culminated with Scott MacLeod dibbing down to extend the hosts lead to 21-0 at the break.
Early into the second half and whilst the Titans were still a man short, Newcastle added their third try through former Titan Jon Golding. Rotherham at no stage let their heads drop and continued to press the Falcons inside their 22. As the Titans attacked, a Garry Law pass was intercepted by Zach Kibirige who raced 80 metres downfield to secure the home side a 4-try bonus point. Gopperth converted to make the score 33-0 on 52 minutes.
Around the hour mark Kingston Park was subjected to blizzard conditions, which made handling difficult for both sides. As the match drew to a close, a series of penalties awarded to Rotherham offered them opportunities to get points on the board. However, rather than taking the kicks at goal, they commendably went in search of tries. But the home side’s well organised defence repeatedly held firm and the match finished without further score.
Despite the defeat Rotherham can take some solace from the fact they made, what is in effect a Premiership team, worked extremely hard on their own patch to secure the victory.
Post match Titans Coach Andre Bester said, “I thought we played well, but it’s about margins. The margins are so tight, especially when you play against a very good side like Newcastle. We were very naive in the first half and we played so much rugby too close to our own line. Newcastle didn’t do that at all, they just kicked and went.
“We didn’t apply ourselves very well in that first half; tactically we got it completely wrong. However, we have to give them a lot of credit, particularly with regard to their defence which I thought was very good. But I am very pleased and proud of the boys, I thought they gave everything.”
Referee: Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts
Yellow Card: Dan Sanderson 40.
Newcastle: Rory Lawson (T), Scott MacLeod (T), Jonny Golding (T), Zach Kibirige (T), Jimmy Gopperth (3P, 2C).
Rotherham Titans: 15 Fergus Mulchrone, 14 Peter Homan, 13 Lee Blackett, 12 Gary Law (Capt.), 11 Eamonn Sheridan, 10 James McKinney (Mike Doneghan 40), 9 Jimmy Williams (Charlie Mulchrone 71), 1 Shane Cahill (Jamie Kilbane 50), 2 Dan Baines (Ted Stagg 56), 3 Ross Davies (Gareth Denman 50), 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Nile Dacres (Joe Ellyatt 76), 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Alex Rieder.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Jamie Kilbane, 19 Joe Ellyatt, 20 Mike Doneghan, 21 Ed Styles, 22 Charlie Mulchrone.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait (Joel Hodgson, 52), 14 Zach Kibirige (James Fitzpatrick 71), 13 Alex Crockett (Jordi Pasqualin 76), 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers (Matt Thompson 55), 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk (James Hall 72), 4 Carlo del Fava (Sean Tomes 68), 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (Capt.) (Chris York 37), 8 Ally Hogg.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Chris York 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick.