Rotherham Titans (25) vs Jersey (16) - Championship
Going into round 6 of the Greene King IPA Championship clash Lee Blackett has made four changes to the starting 15 which beat London Scottish last week. After Jersey suffered a surprising home defeat last time out against Plymouth Albion, the South Yorkshire outfit expect the Islanders to be anxious to return to winning ways.
The two changes in the backline see Jamie Broadley come in on the wing for Curtis Wilson, whilst at outside centre Welsh pocket rocket Jack Roberts get the nod ahead of Joel Gill. In the pack Ben Thomas comes in for Barney Maddison at lock and Alex Rieder deputises for the injured Laurence Pearce in a reshuffled back row.
The sides have previously met competitively on two occasions, both coming in last seasons Championship where both sides secured home victories.
Titans Lee Blackett looking ahead to the fixture commented, “I thought looking at Jersey pre-season that they would be a top 6 side and from what I’ve seen so far I know they’ll be right up there at the end of the season. We know it’s going to be a tough ask and you only have to look at some of their victories in the Championship this year, beating Bedford at home and Nottingham away; that proves they are a good side and that they can travel well.
“We know we’re going to have to front up, their scrum is a weapon for them and it’s something they pride themselves on. However, so do we and we’ll be ready for that challenge. But they are not all about the scrum and they have plenty about them in the backline too.
“Although we are massively confident in our own abilities as a side, we are not good enough that we only have to turn up to win games. For me it’s about attitude and that’s something that we concentrate a lot on here. I’ll never fault the boys for making mistakes because that’s part and parcel of the game, but I won’t tolerate boys not having the right attitude and giving 100%. And I know if we are going to give ourselves a chance against Jersey our attitude will have to be spot on.”
Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Jamie Broadley, 13 Jack Roberts, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Michael Keating, 10 Dallan Murphy, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (Capt.), 1 Marshall Gadd, 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Colin Quigley, 4 Ben Thomas, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Alex Rieder, 7 Ali Birch, 8 Ed Williamson.
Replacements: 16 Jack Preece, 17 Mike Dias, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Barney Maddison, 20 Alfie To’oala, 21 Dan White, 22 Curtis Wilson.
At a wet and windy Clifton Lane it was visiting fly half Niall O'Connor who had first crack at opening the scoring; however, his penalty effort from 50 metres just drifted wide of the right post.
Nevertheless, it was the home side who made the stronger start and were rewarded for their early dominance when scrum half Charlie Mulchrone darted over from close range in the 7th minute. Juan Pablo Socino converted to nudge the Titans 7-0 ahead.
Disappointingly for the hosts, ten minutes later a missed tackle resulted in Jersey blindside Ben Maidment scoring a try next to the sticks; O’Connor made the straightforward conversion to level matters at 7 apiece.
On 20 minutes early Jersey replacement Mark Foster was a touch fortunate to stay on the field, after a high tackle felled a Titans player. However, just 3 minutes later Rotherham nosed ahead once more. From a line out five metres from the visitors line Rotherham collected and proceeded to drive forward and over the line. When the dust had settled hooker Tom Cruse emerged as the worthy try scorer. Socino converted to edge Titans 14-7 up.
Jersey now started to have a period of possession inside the Rotherham half and two charged down kicks had the hosts scrambling to keep the visitors out. However either side of the half hour mark Niall O'Connor knocked over a couple of decent penalties to leave Jersey trailing by a point seven minutes before the break.
Rotherham then, as has often happened this season, bounced back with a terrific try. Good work in midfield saw the ball arrive with Alex Rieder; the back rower showed great strength and awareness to break a tackle and offload to Michael Keating in support. Keating then proceeded to cut infield from in excess of 30 metres to scythe through the Jersey defence to touch down for a brilliant individual finish. Socino missed the conversion in the difficult windy conditions.
On half time Jersey reduced the arrears to 3 points after Niall O'Connor knocked over a penalty from in front of the sticks as they demonstrated they weren’t about to roll over and make it easy for the Titans.
The deterioration in the weather during the second period made life difficult for both sides and scoring opportunities came at a premium. Ten minutes in however, Mulchrone under heavy pressure unfortunately knocked on as he attempted to ground the ball for a try.
Rotherham continued to press and Jersey continued to defend with great commitment. On 57 minutes visiting openside Joe Buckle was sin-binned for his sides repeatedly slowing down Titans ball. From the resulting penalty Socino punished the visitors and extended the Titans advantage to 22-16.
Rotherham continued to hammer away at Jersey, but they just couldn’t put them away and whilst holding just a 6-point lead Jersey always had the potential to nick a lead. Socino missed a further 2 penalty efforts in the ever-increasing strong wind and 10 minutes from time Keating was tackled into touch when a bonus-point try looked on.
However, Rotherham finally put the game to bed late on when Socino nailed a great penalty after he allowed the strong wind to bring the ball in from the right hand side.
Jersey may have felt they deserved something from the contest for their afternoon’s efforts and the Titans may have felt they should have had a winning bonus point; maybe they were both right.
Post match Titans Lee Blackett commented, “We are delighted with the result, we always knew it was going to be tough and the conditions didn’t help things. It was ridiculously windy at times. I though we thoroughly deserved the result and we are slightly disappointed that we didn’t get the fourth try, but I have to credit Jersey’s defence which I thought was very good.
“We had plenty of opportunities and credit to our boys for creating them and especially in those conditions out there today; but we are disappointed that we left a point out there. Having said that I would have taken a 4-point victory beforehand because I knew it was going to be tough and Jersey has a good side.
“I was also pleased with how our scrum and line out went; I thought we had the edge in both those departments. We knew Jersey had a very good set piece and they tested us to our max, but I thought we came out on top in that area.
“We’ll do our review of this match on Monday and then we’ll quickly switch into Leeds mode as we know that is going to be a huge game and with it being a derby game that adds a little bit more to it. We’ll have a better indication of where we are after that one. In the league our away form is 3 from 3 and we want to keep that run going and get a win up there, but we know the task ahead will be difficult.”
Referee: John Meredith
Yellow Card: Joe Buckle (Jersey)
Titans: Mulchrone (T), Cruse (T), Keating (T), Socino (2P, 2C).
Jersey: Maidment (T), O’Connor (3P, 1C).
Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Jamie Broadley, 13 Jack Roberts, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Michael Keating, 10 Dallan Murphy, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (Capt.), 1 Marshall Gadd (Dias 80), 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Colin Quigley (Tampin 60), 4 Ben Thomas (Maddison 73), 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Alex Rieder, 7 Ali Birch, 8 Ed Williamson (To’oala 56)( Preece 80).
Replacements: 16 Jack Preece, 17 Mike Dias, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Barney Maddison, 20 Alfie To’oala, 21 Dan White, 22 Joel Gill.
Jersey: 15 Aaron Penberthy, 14 Mark McCrea, 13 Grant Pointer, 12 Drew Locke (Foster 6), 11 Ed Dawson, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Nicky Griffiths (Williams 80), 1 Sean McCarthy (Fidler 53), 2 Dave Felton (Stratford 69), 3 David Young (Selway 80), 4 Nick Campbell (Markham 78), 5 Alex Rae (Capt.), 6 Ben Maidment, 7 Joe Buckle, 8 Tom Brown (Voss 73).
Replacements: 16 Tom Fidler, 17 Luke Stratford, 18 Nick Selway, 19 David Markham, 20 James Voss, 21 Jimmy Williams, 22 Mark Foster.