Rotherham Titans (59) vs Plymouth Albion (26) - British & Irish Cup
This will be the second time the teams have faced each other in the space of three weeks, following Titans 15-3 defeat at the end of September down in the South West.
The two sides first met in September 1994 back in the old National Division 4; on that day Rotherham ran out 23-15 victors. In February 2003 at Championship level, Rotherham secured their biggest victory over Plymouth when they scored 7 tries in a 55-6 victory. Plymouth largest winning margin over the Titans came at Brickfields in 2005, when they put the Yorkshire side to the sword in a 40-23 win. The overall head to head in all competitions sees the two sides dead-even, with each collecting 11 victories and a draw.
Looking ahead to what is expected to be a tricky encounter, Titans Head Coach Andre Bester said, “This game is very important to us and we are playing the full side that is available to us right now. We’ve have 10 big injuries within the squad, but we have said from the start, we have a much better squad this year to cope when injuries do strike.
“It is a really important match for us and we are really looking forward to the challenge. There is a different emphasis on the B&I Cup this year and that’s because we now have the depth of squad to compete in the competition.
“We’ve never started the B&I Cup with a win before, so it was nice to get that monkey of our backs and as I’ve said, we are focussed on the B&I Cup in order to do well in the competition and that’s what we are trying to do.
“The players performed very well last week at Aberavon and I’m sure a lot of our boys who haven’t played a game at Clifton Lane yet are really looking forward to the experience. Hopefully we will have a good crowd at the Lane to support these boys.
Focussing on Plymouth, Bester continued, “Plymouth has done very well this year so far, they are very abrasive up front, defensively they are very well organised and they’ve also got a few line breakers in their team.
“We know they are a dangerous side, we know they can play, we know that they are well organised and most importantly we know they have got a great team spirit. Everything in rugby is about the team spirit, a lot of the time it is not about what you have, it’s about the spirit within the group and the environment that you create. A team can achieve great things if the spirit within the group is right and Plymouth, like us, has that team spirit.”
Titans: 15 Fergus Mulchrone, 14 Ed Styles, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Lee Blackett, 11 Mike Doneghan, 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Marshall Gadd, 2 Jan Francois Bester, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Nile Dacres, 7 Joe Ellyatt, 8 Rory Pitman (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Ross Davies, 18 Jamie Kilbane, 19 Alex Rieder, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Mike Whitehead, 22 Jimmy Williams.
Rotherham Titans have gone top of Pool 7 in the British & Irish Cup, following their 9 try, 59-26 victory over Plymouth Albion. Titans’ performance was one of their best in recent times, where both forwards and backs combined well. The backs excelled particularly; playing with pace and width they repeatedly ripped Albion apart on several occasions.
However, it was Albion who scored first following a catch and drive move from a line out near the hosts line. Tom Bowen was the Albion player to touch down and Freddie Gabbitass converted to give the visitors an early 0-7 lead.
Rotherham responded and a fine break by Eamonn Sheridan and Mike Doneghan took play inside the Albion 22. From the resulting Rotherham scrum the ball was fed infield and arrived with Doneghan, he showed excellent strength to muscle over near the posts. James McKinney converted to level matters.
Within two minutes and the Titans were ahead. Again from a scrum; Rory Pitman picked up from the base and fed Charlie Mulchrone whose pace enabled him to make serious yards into Albion territory. As he drew the full back, he sent a neat pass to find brother Fergus who raced in to touch down for a fine try. McKinney tagged on the extras.
Titans continued to control matters and Lee Blackett almost added to the score, but was bundled into touch a yard short of the line. However, moments later Rotherham extended their advantage. From a line out Charlie Mulchrone found brother Fergus who sent in Doneghan for his 2nd try of the match. Two minutes later Doneghan had his hat trick after a clever inside pass from McKinney who then converted to make it a perfect 4 from 4 conversions.
Deep into first half injury time Titans were caught half asleep after a quick tap penalty from Paul Bailey sent in Tom Bowen for his and Albion’s 2nd try. Gabbitass converted to end the half with Rotherham leading 28-14.
The Titans faithful only had to wait 4 second half minutes for Rotherham’s next score. From a ruck close to the Albion line the ball was spread infield, eventually arriving with Sheridan whose power enabled him to crash over under the sticks. McKinney slotted the extras.
Two minutes later and Sheridan collected his 2nd try of the afternoon, following some excellent work from Lee Blackett and Ed Styles. McKinney pushed his difficult conversion attempt wide of the mark, leaving the Titans cruising with a score of 40-14.
Whilst in cruise mode, once again Titans were caught half asleep as another quick tap penalty resulted in Albion scoring their 3rd try through full back Paul Bailey in the corner.
Nonetheless, Rotherham continued to rampage and scored their 7th try of the afternoon through the impressive Charlie Mulchrone, following some imposing work by Toby Freeman. Five minutes later and up popped Ted Stagg who was on hand to receive a sweet pass from Blackett to touch down. McKinney converted to bring his personal tally to six.
Albion were spirited throughout and deservedly collected the four try bonus point on 65 minutes, when after a 5 metre line out, their pack drove over with replacement Jamie Salter touching down. Bailey converted to reduce Albion’s arrears to 52-26.
Five minutes from time Captain for the day Lee Blackett rounded off an excellent personal and team performance, when he collected a pass from Joe Ellyatt and dibbed down near the corner. McKinney nailed the difficult conversion to leave the final score at 59-26.
Titans Head Coach Andre Bester was pleased with the result and said afterwards, “We came out with a specific game plan for Plymouth and we executed it very well. It’s not a totally new way for us, as we have worked hard in training earlier on in the season on our general play in this regard. Previously though, because we have had a lot of new guys in the team we have struggled to execute game plans, but today I thought we executed our game plan very well.
“We are a good all round side and there is good scope to put width onto our game. We have worked very hard as a group and we know it’s very important not to become selfish when we are on the ball. What the boys did today was to work really hard to give the guy next to them the ball when they were in a better position and that’s what they did.
“We are now looking forward to the visit of Munster in December as we continue to strive to go deep into the British & Irish Cup competition. We know Munster are a very good side with a very strong set-up and they will test us fully when they visit Clifton Lane.
“However, that’s a long way into our future and right now I am only thinking about our trip to Newcastle and planning and preparing in the right manner. But on today’s game I thought we played very well and I’m very happy with the boys, although they have given me a headache in terms of team selection.”
Referee: Johanne Van Der Merwe
Titans: Doneghan (3T), Sheridan (2T), F. Mulchrone (T), C. Mulchrone (T), Stagg (T), Blackett (T), James McKinney (7C).
Plymouth: Bowen (2T), Nasiga (T), Bailey (1T, 1C), Gabbitass (2C).
Titans: 15 Fergus Mulchrone, 14 Ed Styles (Jimmy Williams 47), 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Lee Blackett (Capt.), 11 Mike Doneghan, 10 James McKinney, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Marshall Gadd (Jamie Kilbane 56), 2 Jan-Francois Bester (Ted Stagg 52), 3 Gareth Denman (Ross Davies 61), 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Nile Dacres (Alex Rieder 71), 7 Joe Ellyatt, 8 Rory Pitman (Carl Kirwan 56).
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Ross Davies, 18 Jamie Kilbane, 19 Carl Kirwan, 20 Alex Rieder, 21 Joel Gill, 22 Jimmy Williams.
Plymouth: 15 Paul Bailey, 14 Sam Jones, 13 Toby Howley-Berridge, 12 Keni Fisilau, 11 Tom Bowen, 10 Freddie Gabbitass (Lewis Warner 56), 9 Ruairi Cushion (Capt.) (Joe Bartlett 28), 1 Ben Rogers, 2 Tom Cowan-Dickie (Jamie Salter 40), 3 Jack Andrew (Ryan Hopkins 52), 4 Will Carrick-Smith (Rupeni Nasiga 49), 5 Len Ascroft-Leigh, 6 Sam Matavesi, 7 Wayne Sprangle (Sam Hocking 56), 8 Harrison Tovey.
Replacements: 16 Joe Bartlett, 17 Lewis Warner, 18 Sam Hocking, 19 Ryan Hopkins, 20 Jamie Salter, 21 Rupeni Nasiga, 22 Bevon Armitage.