League Table

P W D L Pts
1 Bristol 21 17 0 4 86
2 London Welsh 21 18 0 3 82
3 Leeds 21 16 0 5 75
4 Rotherham Titans 21 16 0 5 75
5 London Scottish 21 13 0 8 61

Fixtures

Bedford Blues (22) vs Rotherham Titans (16) - Championship

Wednesday December 26th - KO 3.00pm

Pre-Match Report

Titans make one change to their backline with Club Captain Garry Law starting at full back; meaning Fergus Mulchrone switches to the wing as Joel Gill is given a rest.

Marshall Gadd comes into the side at loosehead prop for Jamie Kilbane, whilst Dan Baines makes a welcome return at hooker, following a 6 week lay-off with a rib injury. Ben Thomas makes his first start for the club in the second row and completing the changes Carl Kirwan comes back in at openside flanker.

The Boxing Day fixture will be the 34th meeting between the clubs, with Bedford hold a 19-13 overall advantage, with one game drawn; that was the 38-all thriller at Clifton Lane back in September. The last time Titans came away from Goldington Road with a victory was in November 2006; a late Gareth Steenson penalty ensured a 32-34 win for the South Yorkshire outfit.

Titans Head Coach Alex Codling, looking ahead to the holiday clash said, “Going to Bedford will present us with a huge challenge; they are one of the form sides in the division alongside Nottingham and Newcastle. However, on the back of our result away to Munster, the boy’s confidence is high and we’ll go there and give it a real go.

“Our aim is to win as many games as possible from here on in and we’ll see where that takes us at the end of the season. They’ll be a big crowd down there on Boxing Day and the atmosphere will be electric, but we have prepared well and are fully focused on the job at hand.

“Finally, I would just like to wish all the Titans supporters a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.”

Titans: 15 Garry Law (Capt.), 14 Peter Homan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Lee Blackett, 11 Fergus Mulchrone, 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Marshall Gadd, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Ross Davies, 4 Ben Thomas, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Toby Freeman.

Replacements: 16 Harry Hannan, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Alex Rieder, 19 Joe Ellyatt, 20 Pale Nonu, 21 Ben Howard, 22 Jimmy Williams.

Match Report

Playing down the famous Bedford slope in the first half, Rotherham had the better of things throughout the first period. The Titans scrum bullied their counterparts constantly, although clear try scoring opportunities were limited as both sets of defences were outstanding.

Rotherham came out of the blocks much the quicker and raced into a 6-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes through two Garry Law penalty kicks. James Pritchard reduced the arrears for the hosts shortly after with his successful penalty after Titans had been pinged for going off side.

As the half developed it was clear Rotherham had the superior scrum as they repeatedly pushed Bedford backwards at the set piece. However, the Titans line out was not functioning at all, as time and again they lost possession in crucial field positions.

Approaching the midway mark Titans Garry Law was shown a yellow card for entering the maul from the side. The resulting penalty saw Pritchard level matters with his boot. Titans under a little pressure now with having a man less on the pitch, were grateful to Eamonn Sheridan as he cleaned up nicely from a kick through by Jake Sharp.

Rotherham regrouped and managed to get themselves back on the front foot, causing Bedford to infringe at the breakdown. With Law off the field, James McKinney stepped up and from 40 metres nailed the kick to edge Titans back in front.

Within a minute of Law’s return Rotherham forced another penalty at the scrum, as the Bedford pack struggled to contain the visitors. Law effort from around 45 metres on the angle hit the crossbar providing the hosts with a let-off.

As half time approached Bedford made a rare foray inside the Titans 22; from a ruck close to the line former Titan Neil Cochrane peeled off and looked certain to score. However, from nowhere Charlie Mulchrone emerged and somehow turned Cochrane in the tackle to hold him up over the Tryline for an outstanding piece of defensive work.

Into first half injury time and the last piece of action saw James Pritchard surprisingly miss a straightforward penalty attempt for the hosts, sending Rotherham in at the break with a worthy 9-6 advantage.

The second half saw Bedford in the ascendancy as they used the slope effectively, using the increasingly windy conditions to good effect. It took the hosts just five minutes to level matters as fly half Jake Sharp neatly slotted a drop goal over from around 30 metres out.

Three minutes later and Rotherham were a little unlucky as a kick-through from Pritchard deflected of a Titans leg, which then saw James Stephenson win the foot race to dot down for the first try of the match. Pritchard added on the extras from the conversion and suddenly Bedford were 16-9 to the good.

Garry Law had an opportunity to reduce the deficit just 5 minutes later, but his long range penalty effort drifted right of the sticks.

On the hour mark Bedford increased their lead when Pritchard was successful with his third penalty of the afternoon. Bedford continued to press and had the lion’s share of possession and territory, meaning Rotherham had lots of defending to do, which they did manfully throughout.

Twelve minutes from time and Titans suffered their second yellow card of the contest. This time Pale Nonu was sent to the bin, following his prevention of quick Bedford ball. Before Nonu’s return Pritchard added his fourth penalty to increase the hosts lead to 22-9.

Three minutes from time and Rotherham made progress into the Bedford 22, following an impressive line break from new boy Harry Hannan. From the ensuing ruck the ball was fed out to James McKinney who quickly found Sheridan in midfield, his sharp and incisive long pass was collected on the right wing by Fergus Mulchrone who raced in at pace for a neatly taken and well-worked try. Law added the extras from near the touchline to reduce the arrears to 6 points and set up a nervy ending for the hosts.

However, no further scoring opportunities arose for the Titans and Bedford held out to deservedly collect the 22-16 victory.

Alex Codling, Titans Head Coach reflected afterwards by saying, “I was really pleased with the first half, but once again we gave away some silly penalties in and around their 22, which allowed them to relieve the pressure, but going in 9-6 up at half time we were pretty pleased with that.

“Bedford are a tough side, only Newcastle have come here and won and not many teams get anything from here. So, it’s obviously a positive to get a point, but we are frustrated in some ways, I thought we scored the best try of the game demonstrating some outstanding handling.

“However, picking up two yellow cards didn’t please me, it seems to be our Achilles heel at the moment and we need to change that. But it’s progress, it’s a positive result in the bigger scheme of things, but we are frustrated as on another day we could have got over the line.

“I was more than a shade disappointed with our line out today, it simply was not up to scratch and that’s something we need to get sorted, but we will go away and work on that. On the positive side of things I thought our scrum was excellent and dominant throughout, I was delighted with our scrum.

“Credit to our boys though, they defended resolutely and Bedford got one of those tries where you kick through and it bounces of legs and on another day it goes dead. To play on Boxing Day and get a point away from home at a tough place like Goldington Road, with the players showing a huge amount of character means we are pleased but not elated.”

Attendance: 4,418
Referee: Darren Gamage
Yellow Card: Law 19, Nonu 67.
Titans: F. Mulchrone (T), McKinney (P), Law (2P, 1C).
Bedford: Stephenson (T), Sharp (D/G), Pritchard (4P, 1C).

Titans: 15 Garry Law (Capt.), 14 Peter Homan (Howard 64), 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Lee Blackett (Nonu 40), 11 Fergus Mulchrone, 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (Williams 55), 1 Marshall Gadd, 2 Dan Baines (Hannan 40), 3 Ross Davies (Denman 64), 4 Ben Thomas, 5 Dan Sanderson (Rieder 67), 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Carl Kirwan (Ellyatt 64), 8 Toby Freeman.

Replacements: 16 Harry Hannan, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Alex Rieder, 19 Joe Ellyatt, 20 Pale Nonu, 21 Ben Howard, 22 Jimmy Williams.

Bedford: 15 James Pritchard (Capt.), 14 James Stephenson, 13 Brendan Burke, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jake Sharp, 9 Darryl Veenendaal (Baldwin 56), 1 Darren Fearn (Reeves 40), 2 Neil Cochrane, 3 Phil Boulton (Seal 40), 4 Mike Howard (Gillanders 76), 5 Ben Gulliver, 6 Alex Rae, 7 Darren Fox, 8 Paul Tupai (Barrell 69).

Replacements: 16 Chris Locke, 17 Ricky Reeves, 18 Dan Seal, 19 Gregor Gillanders, 20 Don Barrell, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ian Vass.