Sheffield Tigers (12) vs Rotherham Titans (57) - Friendly
Andre Bester has made seven changes to the side that comprehensively beat Hull Ionians 60-7 at the weekend.
The three changes along the back line sees Ed Styles come in at full back for the injured Oli Denton. Laurence Pearce gets his first start for the club on the left wing, as Mike Doneghan shifts on to the right flank, replacing 4-try hero Peter Homan and Joel Gill is given the nod at scrum half in place of Charlie Mulchrone, after impressing as a replacement against Hull Ionians.
In the pack Ted Stagg wears the number 2 jersey in place of Jan-Francois Bester and alongside him at tight head prop; Simon Gardiner has the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities. In the back row at blindside Latu Makaafi gets his first start, whilst at number 8 Mick Noone will be eager to impress in what is expected to be a competitive position within the side this term.
Looking ahead to the game Andre Bester stated, “Once again we see our fixture against Sheffield Tigers as a training session, just as we did the Hull Ionians match; in fact probably more so as it takes away one of our training sessions this week. We’ll have our full gym session tomorrow morning as usual and then we’ll use the Tigers match tomorrow night to replace our Tuesday afternoon training session.
“At this stage it’s about the contact environment and about the players trying to realise where they are on the pitch, because there is still some uncertainty about the systems which is natural at this juncture.
“We’ll give more players some game time against Tigers and that will help with their development, particularly with the young boys that we have here. We want to make sure that we will be physically ready for this league and not to run out of bodies at the end.
“We want to be battle hardened, but we also want to make sure that we don’t suffer burnout. So it’s very important that we pace ourselves and time everything correctly.”
Titans: 15, Ed Styles, 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Max Learmonth, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Laurence Pearce, 10 Mike Whitehead (Capt.), 9 Joel Gill, 1 Gareth Denman, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Simon Gardiner, 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Latu Makaafi, 7 Joe Ellyatt, 8 Mick Noone.
The match consisted of two thirty minute periods, with a final period of twenty minutes. However, the Titans were stunned after just 3 minutes when the host’s took a quick tap penalty and raced in from close range through some lax defending for a converted try.
On 5 minutes though Titans responded and following an interchange of passes which involved forwards and backs, Latu Makaafi collected and steamrolled through to crash over.
The opening half of the 1st period saw Tigers enjoy some dominance in terms of field position and their scrum held its own impressively. However on 16 minutes, a quick tap from the impressive Joel Gill set up Toby Freeman who showed tremendous strength to bully his way over the whitewash.
On 26 minutes following good work from Mike Doneghan, Max Learmonth and Ted Stagg, Titans had their 3rd try when Titans favourite Pale Nonu crashed over near the sticks.
As the period drew to a close Dan Sanderson notched his first try for the Titans following a period of sustained pressure from the visiting pack.
Surprisingly the game had to wait 20 minutes into the 2nd period before the next score and it was Sheffield who deservedly scored after a neat move through their backs was finished off in the right corner.
The conceded try stunned Titans out of their lethargy as they responded magnificently, scoring four tries in the remaining eight minutes of the period. First up Charlie Mulchrone touched down from his quick tap penalty. Makaafi scored his 2nd following an impressive and elusive break from James McKinney.
Prop forward Ross Davies got his 2nd try in two games following excellent work from Ted Stagg who showed impressive pace to open up the Tigers defence and Joel Gill was justly rewarded for his efforts throughout when he touched down following an interchange of passes with Laurence Pearce.
The shortened final period saw both sides counter each other repeatedly and scoring opportunities were limited. However, the unofficial man of the match Joel Gill still had the energy and drive to create the final score of the evening, allowing Max Learmonth to stroll in under the sticks for Titans ninth try.
Post match Titans coach Andre Bester reflected, “We gave a lot of the new guys an opportunity and number of the boys who haven’t played yet and we changed it around from Saturday again. It’s always difficult coming to this sort of environment, because you are trying to make it a more level playing field and a worthwhile exercise and that’s what it’s all about.
“It’s not the score line at this stage that’s important; it’s about making it a worthwhile exercise. We wanted to be contested and we were, that helps us to harden up and become mentally tougher and it assists us in eliminating our mistakes. We don’t want to put 100 points on teams, we want to be challenged and Sheffield Tigers challenged us very well and they made it a worthwhile exercise for us.
“We are very happy with the exercise but there’s no doubt with certain players their fitness and conditioning needs some work and there’s a lot of work ahead for a number of players. However, it’s still very early and we will get there.
“But we are a long way in front of where we were 12 months ago and you have to remember there were a significant number of guys on the touch line that haven’t even played any rugby so far this year. All of these things are a means to an end and we are very happy at where we are at this moment in time.”