Doncaster Knights (19) vs Rotherham Titans (25) - Championship
Titans Alex Codling has made just two changes to his starting fifteen for the trip to Castle Park, both of which are in the pack. Prop Marshall Gadd gets the nod in place of Jamie Kilbane, whilst Alex Rieder comes in at number 8 for Toby Freeman who picked up a dead-leg against Newcastle.
Rotherham have won the last three encounters against their fierce local rivals, including the corresponding fixture last season 14-15, where Titans skipper Garry Law snatched victory with the last kick of the match in front of the Sky Sports cameras. However, the overall league head to head sees Knights hold a healthy 11-6 advantage.
Ahead of the South Yorkshire clash Alex Codling explained, “I was delighted with the effort and performance the boys put in against Newcastle last week; the fact that we only had to make 9 tackles in the second half really highlights the control and possession we enjoyed against the best team in the division. The resolve and determination to get back to 22-28 late in the game was outstanding, with the boys demonstrating a huge amount of determination, pride and no shortage of skill. The real disappointment for me was the fact we didn’t pick up two points that I felt we deserved on the day.
“This week the spirit in the camp has been good ahead of our derby match against Doncaster. Local derbies always have an extra edged to them, it’s a big day for the supporters and the players recognise that. I think the key for us is to transfer the form we showed in the second half against Bristol and the last 50 minutes against Newcastle – the two form teams in the league – to make sure we get over the line and get the points. But we know it’s going to be a huge challenge against a side that are desperate for the points.
“Doncaster are a good side and there’s no doubt about that. If you saw them last time out against Moseley; in the first half they controlled a huge amount of territory and possession, but they just couldn’t convert that into points and the score line doesn’t really reflect how they played.
“Doncaster has a very abrasive pack, their back row is very combative and in Matt Challinor they have an outstanding player who has led from the front. They have Joe Bedford at nine which Rotherham knows all about; he has loads of experience and composure. The centre partnership of Will Sharp and Tom Luke gives them some real go-forward in the middle of the park and they are a danger, whilst Will Hafu at number 7 is an outstanding player who has plenty of speed and great footwork. So, we are acutely aware of the challenge that Doncaster will present.
“However, we know if we play like we did against Newcastle for the last 50 minutes, we’ll beat any side in the division. We just need to make sure that’s the level we play at for the remainder of the season.”
Titans: 15 Garry Law (Capt.), 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Curtis Wilson, 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Marshall Gadd, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Ben Thomas, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Alex Rieder.
Replacements: 16 Harry Hannan, 17 Ross Davies, 18 Jamie Kilbane, 19 Neale Patrick, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Lee Blackett, 22 Jimmy Williams.
Played in difficult, wet and slippery conditions, there was little to choose between the sides at the break, although Doncaster edged the scoreboard 9-6 with three Flockhart penalties to Garry Law’s two and with the majority of the action taking place in the middle third of the field, try-scoring opportunities came at a premium.
Rotherham did however come close to forcing a penalty try just before the half hour mark, following Tom Luke’s yellow card for knocking the ball deliberately into touch in the dead goal area. From the penalty incurred, Titans scrum on the Knights line had the host’s back-peddling at a rate of knots as their scrum started to disintegrate, but just as it appeared referee Matt Carley was about to run under the sticks, Titans lost control of the ball.
Knights extended their narrow advantage early in the second period as Flockhart added his fourth penalty. However the game changed dramatically in an eight minute period which saw the titans score three tries.
Just before the hour mark Curtis Wilson collected just outside his 22 and ambitiously attacked, beating three Knights players before offloading to Eamonn Sheridan. He in turn made further ground before finding Mike Doneghan; the flying Scotsman used his impressive speed to gallop 50 metres plus down the right flank to score an impressive try in the corner.
Two minutes later the excellent Dan Sanderson broke through and made 30 metres up to the Doncaster line before feeding Charlie Mulchrone, he quickly sent in Sheridan for a fine try to give Titans the lead for the first time in the match. Law converted to make it 12-18.
Massively on top now Rotherham pressured their rivals further, Titans set scrum was a dominant source of success which allowed them plenty of go-forward momentum. On 67 minutes from a penalty won at scrum time Rotherham kicked to the corner and secured a line out 15 metres from the Knights line. As Titans dominant pack rumbled towards the line, the host’s illegal intervention forced referee Carley to award a penalty try. Law knocked over the extras as Titans extended their lead to 12-25.
Eight minutes from time Rotherham’s Ben Thomas was yellow carded for dangerous play at the line out. With a man advantage the host’s managed a late rally and with the last play of the match, former Titan Matt Challinor crashed over for a consolation try. Flockhart converted to give the Knights a losing bonus point.
Post match a delighted Titans Coach, Alex Codling said, “I was a little disappointed with our first half performance as we gave away too many silly penalties; we had a scrum on their line and was about to be awarded a penalty try, but then we lost control of the ball.
“In the second half though I thought we were outstanding in very tough conditions. The only frustration is we left one try on the table. But it was a tough local derby against a Doncaster side that were fighting for their lives and you have to give them some credit, they battled the whole way through and I’m delighted with the win.
“Whenever you play in conditions like that, it’s about getting your basics right and we did that, particularly with our scrum which functioned very well and allowed us to get onto the front foot and push home our advantage. I’m delighted for the boys; they’ve worked very hard and fully deserved their victory today. We are going to keep pushing and pushing for the remainder of the season, that’s key for the players, the supporters and for the club.”
Referee: Matt Carley
Yellow Card: Luke 27 (Doncaster), Thomas 72 (Titans).
Titans: Doneghan (T), Sheridan (T), Penalty Try, Law (2P, 2C).
Doncaster: Challinor (T), Flockhart (4P, 1C).
Titans: 15 Garry Law (Capt.), 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Curtis Wilson, 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (Jimmy Williams 67), 1 Marshall Gadd, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Ben Thomas, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Alex Rieder (Laurence Pearce 60).
Replacements: 16 Harry Hannan, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Ross Davies, 19 Neale Patrick, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Lee Blackett, 22 Jimmy Williams.
15 Michael Keating, 14 Douglas Flockhart, 13 Dante Mama, 12 Tom Luke, 11 Will Sharp, 10 Connor Braid, 9 Joe Bedford (Chris Hallam 75), 1 Tom Davies (Andy Brown 52), 2 Rhys Buckley, 3 Jerry Cronin (Brian McGovern 69), 4 Matt Challinor (Capt.), 5 Dominic Parsons (Dan Smith58), 6 Adam Kettle, 7 Will Hafu (Ben Sowery 69), 8 Chris Planchant (Andy Boyde 71).
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowery, 17 Brian McGovern, 18 Andy Brown, 19 Andy Boyde, 20 Chris Hallam, 21 Tyson Lewis, 22 Dan Smith.