Rotherham Titans (12) vs Nottingham (32) - Championship
Titans Head Coach Alex Codling has made just one change to the backline, which sees Jimmy Williams return to the starting line-up at scrum half. In the pack Ted Stagg gets the nod at hooker over Dan Baines and Alex Rieder comes back into the fold at number 8, shifting Toby Freeman into the second row for the injured Dan Sanderson.
Currently eight points adrift of 4th spot with a game in hand, Rotherham Titans are fully aware of the importance of the Nottingham clash and realise the Green & Whites will test their resolve to the utmost. Titans will be aiming to complete the league ‘double’ over Nottingham, following arguably their best performance of the season when beating them 16-27 at Meadow Lane back in September.
The overall head to head league record between the sides sees Rotherham edging matters 11-7, with one draw. In fact Nottingham have only won one league encounter at Clifton Lane, that being a 5-19 victory in 2007, demonstrating how difficult a place ‘The Lane’ can be for visiting teams.
Alex Codling, looking ahead to the match-up commented, “The boys have had a few days off over the holiday period to recharge their batteries and they’ve had a well deserved rest. However, they have trained very well this week and they are raring to go following two positives results away from home.
“We are excited to be back at Clifton Lane and we want as many supporters as possible to come down and cheer the boys on. The Nottingham game is a crucial one for us and the support we get at Clifton Lane makes a huge difference, so we are hoping for a good crowd on Saturday.”
Titans: 15 Garry Law (Capt.), 14 Fergus Mulchrone, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Lee Blackett, 11 Peter Homan, 10 James McKinney, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Marshall Gadd, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Ross Davies, 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Ben Thomas, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Alex Rieder.
Replacements: 16 Harry Hannan, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Jamie Kilbane, 19 Nile Dacres, 20 Dan Baines, 21 Ben Howard, 22 Charlie Mulchrone.
Despite Nottingham starting much the brighter and touching down inside the first minute through Jack Cobden and then extending their lead on five minutes with a James Arlidge penalty, Rotherham worked themselves back into the game quickly.
Garry Law reduced the home side’s deficit on 17 minutes with a penalty kick following the visitor’s infringement at the breakdown. The Titans scrum was again functioning well and on 27 minutes forced a penalty at the set piece, which Law knocked over from around 30 metres to reduce the arrears to 2 points.
Five minutes before the break James McKinney’s kick through was expertly collected by Peter Homan just outside the Nottingham 22. Homan fed Carl Kirwan in a dangerous position, but unfortunately he knocked on under heavy pressure and the opportunity was lost.
Just before half time James Arlidge missed a penalty from distance for the visitors and Titans went in at the break trailing by two points.
Rotherham came out for the second period bright and deservedly took the lead on 46 minutes when the reliable Law added his 3rd penalty of the match.
The game then went through a scrappy period with both teams guilty of unforced handling errors. However, both sides continued to defend very well and try-scoring opportunities were limited.
On the hour mark following another Nottingham infringement at the breakdown, Garry Law increased Rotherham advantage with an excellent penalty from around 48 metres on the angle. Two minutes later and a delightful kick and chase by Law put the visitors under immense pressure close to their line. However, referee McDonald deemed Rotherham had infringed at the ruck and awarded Nottingham a penalty, which allowed them to clear the danger.
On 73 minutes the game was about to be turned on its head. Charlie Mulchrone, believing a pod of players had broken from a maul and thus playable, was penalised and yellow carded for entering the maul from the side.
Five minutes later Nottingham ruthlessly took advantage of their extra man by running in three converted tries from Brent Wilson, Andy Forsyth and Tim Streather. In addition to the three conversions, James Arlidge added a penalty on 80 minutes to wrap up a 12-32 victory for the Green & Whites.
Post match Titans Head Coach Alex Codling reflected, “I think the key moment of the match came in the second half when we were on their try line putting them under huge pressure and then we give away a penalty. Also, the yellow card didn’t help us, as we were 12-8 up at the time.
“We played well in the second half and we were relatively in control, but that’s the difference at the top level it’s all about small margins. We said all week they had very good outside backs and I thought Tim Streather at 13 was outstanding; he’s an absolute class act.
“I also don’t think we are fit enough if I’m being honest; we need to get a lot fitter. It’s an ongoing process and although it’s not going to change overnight, we will resolve that issue. There are a number of things that need tweaking and piece by piece we’ll get there. However, I think we can see the progress in terms of our attack and we defended pretty well for large parts of the match.
“I thought our scrum again was outstanding and I thought Latu Makaafi was absolutely immense and Alex Rieder was outstanding too. I can’t fault the work ethic of the players, but we are not fit enough. We had a couple of opportunities to score which would have put a different complexion on the game, but we didn’t take them and that’s the small margins that make a huge difference.”
Referee: Greg McDonald
Yellow Card: C. Mulchrone
Titans: Law (4P).
Nottingham: Cobden (T), Streather (T), Wilson (T), Forsyth (T), Arlidge (2P, 3C).
Titans: 15 Garry Law (Capt.), 14 Fergus Mulchrone, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Lee Blackett, 11 Peter Homan (Ben Howard 62), 10 James McKinney, 9 Jimmy Williams (Charlie Mulchrone 61), 1 Marshall Gadd (Jamie Kilbane 29), 2 Ted Stagg (Harry Hannan 62), 3 Ross Davies (Gareth Denman 65), 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Ben Thomas, 6 Latu Makaafi (Nile Dacres 72), 7 Carl Kirwan (Dan Baines 62), 8 Alex Rieder.
Replacements: 16 Harry Hannan, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Nile Dacres, 20 Dan Baines, 21 Ben Howard, 22 Charlie Mulchrone.
Nottingham: 15 Alex Lewington, 14 Jack Cobden, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Joe Munro (Andy Forsyth 58), 11 Rhys Crane, 10 James Arlidge, 9 Sean Romans, 1 Jonny Harris, 2 Shaun Malton (Scott Wright 76), 3 Michael Holford (Ryan Bower 61), 4 Dan Montagu, 5 Nic Rouse (Tom Price 76), 6 Rupert Cooper (Alex Shaw 62), 7 Brent Wilson (Capt.), 8 Tom Calladine.
Replacements: 16 Scott Wright, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Tom Price, 19 Alex Shaw, 20 Finlay Barnham, 21 Joe Cobden, 22 Andy Forsyth.