Rotherham Titans (41) vs Cornish Pirates (28) - Championship
As a result, Titans Head Coach Alex Codling has made eight changes to the starting fifteen. The four changes along the back line sees Ed Styles return from his loan spell at Sheffield Tigers and he starts at full back. Pale Nonu comes back into contention at inside centre, adding some bulk to the midfield. On loan Curtis Wilson returns on the wing following his enforced absence last time out against his parent club Leeds Carnegie and Jimmy Williams get the nod to start at scrum half.
In the pack Jamie Kilbane is favoured for the loose head berth. Neale Patrick makes a welcome return in the boiler house after a frustrating season which has seen him plagued by injury and in the back row Joe Ellyatt and Laurence Pearce have a further opportunity to shine.
Titans overall record against the Cornishmen sees just 5 victories and a draw from their 21 competitive encounters. Titans’ last success over Pirates came in January 2011 at Clifton Lane, where a try, four penalties and a conversion from Juan Pablo Socino secured a 19-18 victory.
Ahead of Wednesday’s clash, Alex Codling commented, “The positive is our final three games of the season are at home, meaning we don’t have any long trips to embark on, but 3 games in 11 days will be tough. It’s always the case when you get to the back end of the season, you pick up a number of injuries and with the long-term ones we have as well; it does make it somewhat difficult.
“However, we certainly have the squad capable of getting the result against Cornish Pirates. It’s just a case of making sure we apply ourselves, we’re disciplined and we’re very physical. Probably those three disciplines weren’t that evident against Leeds last time out, particularly in the first half, although we improved significantly in the second.
“Pirates had a disappointing result on Sunday going out of the B&I Cup to Munster by a point and I’m sure they’ll come up here looking to make amends for that. They are a quality outfit who year on year are always there or thereabouts and we know how tough it is going to be against them. You look at Phil Burgess who is moving on to play England 7’s, you look at some of their other players who will be playing at a higher level next season and in Gavin Cattle they have one of the best operators in the division, so we’re under no illusions as to the challenge ahead.
“But we know if we put in a performance we can beat any side in the division. Furthermore, we need to put in a performance; we owe it to the players who are staying on for next year and the ones that are going need to understand how they got their opportunity, but most importantly we need to perform for our supporters who have been magnificent for us all year.”
Titans: 15 Ed Styles, 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Curtis Wilson, 10 James McKinney, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Neale Patrick, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Toby Freeman, 7 Joe Ellyatt, 8 Laurence Pearce.
Replacements: 16 Alistair Thomson, 17 Marshall Gadd, 18 Ross Davies, 19, Ben Thomas, 20 Alex Rieder, 21 Joel Gill, 22 Charlie Mulchrone.
In front of a healthy crowd for the re-arranged Wednesday tea time fixture against Cornish Pirates, both sides played some attacking, entertaining rugby, further demonstrating the quality of rugby which is being played in the RFU Championship.
It was the visitors who took the early initiative and on 9 minutes from a line out on the Rotherham 22, Pirates set-up a driving maul which rumbled relentlessly towards the line for winger Ashley Smith to score.
Titans bounced back however minutes later, after good forward pressure took play up to the Pirates 22. From there James McKinney fed Pale Nonu who delivered a sweet inside pass for the onrushing Curtis Wilson to scythe through and score near the corner to level matters at five apiece.
A sweeping cross field move on 22 minutes saw Ed Styles feed Eamonn Sheridan who showed immense power to crash over from 5 metres out with two Pirates players hanging off him. Styles converted to give Titans a 12-5 advantage.
The open nature of the contest saw Pirates reply just 5 minutes later, when from another catch and drive move close to the Titans line, scrum half Tom Kessell was on hand to dib down. Pirates nudged themselves back ahead on the half hour mark when full back Kyle Moyle knocked over a penalty from around 35 metres, making the score 12-13.
Three minutes before the break Rotherham secured turnover ball inside the Pirates 22. Jimmy Williams’ crisp pass found Pale Nonu who slipped the tackle to send in Laurence Pearce from a couple of metres out to score under the sticks. Styles converted in front of the clubhouse to give Titans the lead once again at 19-13.
Almost immediately after, Kyle Moyle nibbled away at the Pirates deficit with a well struck penalty after Rotherham had been punished for being off side at the breakdown.
Nevertheless, the final play of the first half saw Rotherham score a fine try. Laurence Pearce collected the ball around 30 metres from goal and charged his way through the Pirates defence, before being brought to ground a metre short. Under contact Pearce popped the ball up to the rampaging Toby Freeman who was in support. Freeman collected nicely to score; ending the half with Titans holding a 24-16 advantage and a bonus point in the bag.
The second period started in disappointing fashion for the home side. From the base of a ruck 40 metres from the Titans line, Tom Kessell picked up and went through a gap to race in and score near the posts. Moyle converted to make it a one point game.
However, the game was turned on its head in the space of 8 minutes when Rotherham blitzed Pirates with three tries. Ted Stagg, Gareth Denman and Laurence Pearce all crossed the whitewash to effectively wrap up the game. Styles converted the latter to give Titans an unassailable 41-23 lead.
Pirates did score an unconverted try through Darren Barry just before the hour mark, but remarkably, despite the attempts of both sides, there were no further scores in this free-flowing, entertaining encounter.
A delighted Alex Codling said afterwards, “Some of our attack, support lines and off-loading today was outstanding; it was a great day for running rugby and it was nice that our boys with no pressure on them went out there and played some terrific rugby.
“We’ve had a focus these last few months to try and play some good rugby and at times it has come off, but the weather of late has dictated our style of play.
“Today was all about the contact area and creating a platform and that allowed us to get on the front foot and play some outstanding rugby at times. As a result we had some terrific individual performances with Laurence Pearce, Ed Styles, Curtis Wilson and Neale Patrick particularly catching the eye.
“I was a little frustrated with a couple of the tries we conceded; we didn’t make them work very hard for a couple of the scores, but overall it was a five point win which I’m absolutely thrilled with.
“I think you also have to give great credit to our supporters who turned up in good numbers for a midweek early evening game; they created a great atmosphere and that always helps the boys here at Clifton Lane.
“Overall though I am delighted with the performance and result. We have two games remaining and we want to finish the season off with a flourish, although we know it’s going to be tough against Moseley on Saturday with us having less than a 72 hours turnaround. But the boys are determined to give the supporters a real positive end to the season.”
Referee: Dean Richards
Titans: Sheridan (T), Wilson (T), Ted Stagg (T), Denman (T), Freeman (T), Pearce (2T), Styles (3C).
Pirates: Kessell (2T), Smith (T), Barry (T), Moyle (2P, 1C).
Titans: 15 Ed Styles, 14 Mike Doneghan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan (Joel Gill 54), 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Curtis Wilson, 10 James McKinney, 9 Jimmy Williams (Charlie Mulchrone 71), 1 Jamie Kilbane (Marshall Gadd 59), 2 Ted Stagg (Alistair Thomson 76), 3 Gareth Denman (Rikki Stout 76), 4 Neale Patrick (Ben Thomas 68), 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Toby Freeman (Alex Rieder 70), 7 Joe Ellyatt, 8 Laurence Pearce.
Replacements: 16 Alistair Thomson, 17 Marshall Gadd, 18 Rikki Stout, 19, Ben Thomas, 20 Alex Rieder, 21 Joel Gill, 22 Charlie Mulchrone.
Pirates: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 JJ Kilmartin (Gavin Cattle 55), 13 Ben Mercer, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Ashley Smith, 10 Tom Bedford (Tom Riley 55), 9 Tom Kessell, 1 Ryan Storer (Peter Joyce 59), 2 Will Tanner (Darren Semmens 50), 3 Max Maidment (Ryan Storer 70), 4 David Lyons, 5 Darren Barry (Capt.) (Phil Burgess 68), 6 James Tyas, 7 Alex Cheesman, 8 Ben Maidment (Gary Johnson, 50).
Replacements: 16 Peter Joyce, 17 Darren Semmens, 18 Gary Johnson, 19 Kyle Marriott, 20 Phil Burgess, 21 Gavin Cattle, 22 Tom Riley.