League Table

P W D L Pts
2 Worcester Warriors 5 4 0 1 20
3 London Scottish 5 4 0 1 20
4 Doncaster Knights 5 3 0 2 14
5 Rotherham Titans 5 3 0 2 14
6 Nottingham 5 3 0 2 13

Fixtures

Rotherham Titans (22) vs Newcastle Falcons (34) - Championship

Saturday March 2nd - KO 3.00pm

Pre-Match Report

One of the six changes Titans have made sees new recruit Curtis Wilson goes straight into the side on the wing. Wilson arrived at Clifton Lane this week on loan for the remainder of the season from fellow Yorkshire Championship outfit Leeds Carnegie. The other change in the backline comes at inside centre, where Pale Nonu replaces player-coach Lee Blackett.

In the pack there a complete change to the front row with Jamie Kilbane, Ted Stagg and Gareth Denman selected for ‘coal face’ duties. Latu Makaafi gets the nod at blind side flanker to complete the changes.

Titans will be aiming to go closer than they did in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, where they went down 33-0 on Tyneside. The overall head to head between the sides sees Rotherham still searching for their first success over their North East rivals in 8 previous attempts.
The closest Titans have run Newcastle came in April 2001 at Clifton Lane in the Zurich Premiership. On that Tuesday evening Newcastle scored a try with the last play of the game through Michael Stephenson to deny the Yorkshire side 36-39.

The other notable fixture between the sides came in May 2004, where a 20-26 reversal marked Rotherham’s last fixture at the top table of English Rugby. Once again a Michael Stephenson try proved to be the difference at Don Valley stadium in front of 5,203 spectators.

Ahead of Saturday’s match, Titans Head Coach Alex Codling explained, “This game has been on our radar for a while and the boys are chomping at the bit in readiness. There’s obviously a split in the camp with the boys who are in the 22 who are delighted and the boys who aren’t in the mix for Saturday who are obviously frustrated, but that’s natural because all the boys are desperate to play.

“It is the biggest game of the season here and it’s an opportunity both individually and collectively for the boys to test themselves against a quality outfit, who are outstanding and are on a fabulous run right now. The ambition of the majority of the boys is to play at the next level and this game will give them a good gauge of where they’re at.

“Curtis Wilson has come in on loan for the rest of the season and we want to have a look at him in a competitive environment early on. He’s a real finisher and it will be interesting to see how he goes.

“There have been a lot of tight calls this week and you could flip 3 or 4 of them either way, but you have to make a judgement call. Sometimes it’s on form; sometimes it’s on gut-feeling, the opposition or even the weather conditions. You only know on a Monday whether you got the tight calls right or not.

“Are we underdogs for Saturday; of course we are. But we are at home and that’s a huge factor here at Clifton Lane and we are very excited by the opportunity that lies ahead. All I can ask is the boys give it 100% and if that’s enough great, if not I can’t ask them for anymore.”

Titans: 15 Garry Law (Capt.), 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Curtis Wilson, 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Ben Thomas, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Toby Freeman.

Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Marshall Gadd, 18 Ross Davies, 19 Laurence Pearce, 20 Alex Rieder, 21 Lee Blackett, 22 Jimmy Williams.

Match Report

Following a wretched first 28 minutes in which the Titans conceded four converted tries and had Latu Makaafi sin-binned after 2 minutes, the host’s mounted a remarkable comeback that had the Champions elect looking nervously over their shoulders near the end.

Titans’ supporters probably feared the worst after Newcastle scored four converted tries from Hudson, Helleur, Lawson and a penalty try inside the first half hour. However, Rotherham’s response was one of quality, character and spirit.

First of all on 37 minutes, Mike Doneghan squeezed through the narrowest of gaps to score near the right hand corner and then in first half injury time, Charlie Mulchrone was on hand to intercept a Falcons pass to race in from around 70 metres to score and send the home crowd into raptures.

Things got even better for Rotherham when just 4 minutes into the second period Dan Sanderson was on hand to touch down, following a period of sustained pressure from the Titans pack. Law converted to narrow Rotherham’s deficit to 19-28.

With their tails up now Rotherham proceeded to play some outstanding rugby; quick, crisp handling at pace threatened the Falcons defence time after time and the illustrious visitors had to scramble away the danger on numerous occasions. As the home pressure mounted, Falcons replacement Taiasina Tu’ifua was yellow carded for his part in his sides repeated infringements.

On 71 minutes Garry Law knocked over a successful penalty as Rotherham drew to within 6 points and expectations of a surprise result surfaced. However, the visitors won and scored two late penalties to take the points and maintain their 100% winning record in the Championship.

Post match, Titans Head Coach Alex Codling proudly explained, “We spoke in the week about discipline and then we go and give a silly yellow card away in the first couple of minutes and against a team of Newcastle’s quality, you just can’t afford to do that. Going 28-0 down after 20-odd minutes was a bit of a shell-shock and in fact we’d not done a lot wrong. We had a couple of missed tackles and the yellow card and they showed their quality and were very clinical.

“Then from the back end of the first half you started the see glimpses of us having a real go at them and we scored two tries. In the first 30 minutes of the second half we had complete control and the boys were absolutely outstanding. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again, I can’t speak highly enough of them as a group, they always give me 100% and they never leave anything out there on the field. At 28-0 down against the team that is going into the Premiership, most teams would have folded, but not this group of boys.

“It was a great day and our supporters were fantastic, particularly so in the second half once they could see us getting on the front foot. The noise was tremendous and they deserve a lot of credit for the support they gave the lads because it really does make a difference.

“I also thought we saw some outstanding rugby played by us in the second half and I thought we deserved at least one point and maybe two if we could have just gotten over for the fourth try.

“We got back to within 6 points and I thought it possible we would go on and win the game, but we gave away a silly penalty and they took their chance. But take nothing away from the boys they were absolutely outstanding again and I am incredibly proud of them.”

Falcons’ top man Dean Richards also recognised the Titans performance by saying, “I thought we may have taken our foot off the gas a little in the first half, but that’s not to take anything away from Rotherham, because I thought they were outstanding. Even when we were 28 points up, Rotherham were playing and playing well and we knew we wouldn’t go the whole game without conceding a number of points and true to form Rotherham came back and made a real fight of it at the end. There were a few nerves towards the end when Rotherham reduced the gap to just 6 points, but we made a couple of changes which steadied the ship and we eventually came away with the points.”

Attendance: 1890
Referee: Greg MacDonald
Yellow Card: Makaafi (2), Tu’ifua (54).
Titans: Doneghan (T), C. Mulchrone (T), Sanderson (T), Law (2C, 1P).
Newcastle: Hudson (T), Helleur (T), Lawson (T), Penalty Try, Hodgson (4C, 2P).

Titans: 15 Garry Law (Capt.), 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Curtis Wilson (Lee Blackett 62), 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (Jimmy Williams 57), 1 Jamie Kilbane (Marshall Gadd h/t), 2 Ted Stagg (Jared Saunders 70), 3 Gareth Denman (Ross Davies h/t), 4 Ben Thomas, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Latu Makaafi (Laurence Pearce 70), 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Toby Freeman (Alex Rieder 61).

Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Marshall Gadd, 18 Ross Davies, 19 Laurence Pearce, 20 Alex Rieder, 21 Lee Blackett, 22 Jimmy Williams.

Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Andrew Higgins, 13 Michael Tait, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland (Alex Crockett 70), 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk (James Hall 52), 4 Scott MacLeod (Sean Tomes 52), 5 James Hudson, 6 Mark Wilson (Taiasina Tu’ifua 48), 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 James Hall, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Crockett.