Leeds (19) vs Rotherham Titans (10) - Championship
Blackett, who spent six and a half seasons at Leeds where he made over one hundred starts, speaking ahead of the clash said, “We are relishing going into the game as the underdog. Leeds has shown they are a very good side and we know they will provide us with a stern challenge. And although I spent many years at Leeds, there aren’t really that many people left at the club who were there when I was.
“So for me it really is just another game; the fact it’s a Yorkshire derby adds a little spice and with the fixture being part of the Yorkshire Regiment Trophy that adds to the occasion as well. For us as a group however, Sunday is another important Championship match in which we’ll attempt to play the best we can in order to collect as many points as we can.”
Going into the match Titans have made just two changes; in the backline Curtis Wilson returns on the wing for Jamie Broadley following a shoulder injury, whilst in the pack Alfie To’oala gets the nod for the number 8 jersey as Ed Williamson sits the weekend out.
The two sides have met in league action on 18 previous occasions with each side securing 9 victories apiece. Last term however it was the West Yorkshire outfit who won both Championship games as the Titans failed to pick up a solitary point in the two encounters. Titans ambition this time around will no doubt be to try to improve on last season’s points tally.
Highlights of previous meetings between the sides for the Titans came first of all in October 1994, where a first competitive meeting saw Rotherham gain an away 17-8 victory in the old National Division 4.
In February 2000 on a cool Friday evening at Headingley, over three thousand travelling Rotherham supporters witnessed what was billed as a winner-takes-all fixture, as both sides strived to take their place in the Premiership for the first time. The narrowest margin of victory, 17-16 to Rotherham, ultimately led them to the league championship and following a successful two legged play-off against Bedford, a seat at the top table of English rugby.
Titans most recent success over their county rivals came in March 2012; where again at Headingley a 20-3 promotion play-off victory was achieved.
Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Michael Keating, 13 Jack Roberts, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Curtis Wilson, 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 Alfie To’oala.
Replacements: 16 Jack Preece, 17 Mike Dias, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Barney Maddison, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Dan White, 22 Jamie Broadley.
Trailing 16-3 at the break, with just a Juan Pablo Socino penalty to show for their efforts, Rotherham will have been disappointed by their performance. Further disappointment would have been felt afterwards when having looked at the DVD, Leeds only try of the game was confirmed as coming from a 3 metre forward pass. Carnegie fly half Alex Lozowski added the conversion to his three earlier successful penalty kicks.
Titans usual reliable kicker Socino would have been disappointed with his first half return of one successful kick from five, although a number of those efforts came from difficult field positions.
Rotherham came out for the second period a different proposition and after dominating for long periods will have been disappointed to leave the West side of the county with no points to tuck inside their travel bag.
Despite the vast majority of play taking place inside the Leeds half for the second period, it was Lozowski who added his 4th penalty of the afternoon on 49 minutes to nudge the hosts further ahead.
Not deterred Titans pressed and half time replacement Laurence Pearce was centred on most of the South Yorkshire side’s good play, aided by Sean Scanlon you sensed there had been a power shift. Four minutes later referee Ross Campbell had little option than to award Rotherham a penalty try as repeated Leeds infringement close to the line prevented Titans going over. Socino tagged on the extras to reduce Leeds advantage to 19-10.
Rotherham was now playing some good rugby and time after time pressed close to the Leeds line. However, just as it appeared as though Rotherham were about to go over, there was always a Leeds defender scrambling to keep them out.
Eventually and despite a tremendous second half shift, time proved to be the enemy for Rotherham as Leeds held on to claim the Yorkshire bragging rights…for now!
Post match Titans Head Coach Lee Blackett reflected, “It was a frustrating game for us; it took us until half time to get going as we didn’t have any ball first half. Other than the try they scored though I was happy with our defence. We said at half time we needed to get the ball and have a go at them.
“I was happy with our second half effort and thought we should have scored more than the one try. We created several opportunities and we were massively disappointed not to take some of them, but you have to credit Leeds for some of their defensive work.”
Referee: Ross Campbell
Yellow Card: Cruse (Titans), Hampson (Leeds).
Titans: Penalty Try, Socino (1C, 1P).
Leeds: Doherty (T), Lozowski (1C, 4P).
Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Michael Keating, 13 Jack Roberts, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Curtis Wilson (Broadley 57), 10 Charlie Mulchrone (Capt.), 9 Dan White (Gill 57), 1 Marshall Gadd (Dias 69), 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Colin Quigley (Tampin 64), 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Alex Rieder (Preece 50), 7 Ali Birch (Freeman 72), 8 Alfie To’oala (Pearce h/t).
Replacements: 16 Jack Preece, 17 Mike Dias, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Toby Freeman, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Joel Gill, 22 Jamie Broadley.
Leeds: 15 Steve McColl, 14 Oli Goss, 13 Pete Lucock (Griffin 67), 12 Fred Burdon, 11 David Doherty, 10 Alex Lozowski (Hughes 70), 9 Craig Hampson, 1 Ben Harris (Lockwood 62), 2 Joe Graham (Nilsen 55), 3 James Currie (Imiolek 47), 4 Matt Smith (Hannay 62), 5 Calum Green, 6 Jacob Rowan, 7 Chris Walker (Doyle 49), 8 Ryan Burrows.
Replacements: 16 Phil Nilsen, 17 Lee Imiolek, 18 Sam Lockwood, 19 James Doyle, 20 Nathan Hannay, 21 Josh Griffin, 22 Glyn Hughes.