League Table

P W D L Pts
1 Bristol 7 7 0 0 32
2 Worcester Warriors 7 6 0 1 30
3 London Scottish 7 5 0 2 26
4 Rotherham Titans 7 5 0 2 22
5 Nottingham 7 4 0 3 18

Fixtures

Rotherham Titans (35) vs Bedford Blues (6) - Championship

Thursday December 26th - KO 2:00pm - View Photos

Pre-Match Report

Ahead of the match Titans have made seven changes as a number of players have recovered from injury. Returning at full back after 3 weeks out with a shoulder injury is Sean Scanlon; also back in the fold after a 3 week absence at inside centre is Juan Pablo Socino. Newcastle Falcons have made Joel Hodgson available and he starts in the number 10 jersey and completing the changes in the backline Charlie Mulchrone returns at scrum half.

In the forwards Tom Cruse gets the nod ahead of Ben Sowrey at hooker, Dan Sanderson returns in the boiler house following his neck injury and completing the changes in-form Jack Preece get the chance to continue his impressive run at open side.

Looking ahead to the clash Titans head coach Lee Blackett commented, “The competition for places is massively intense and there are guys in form who are sat on our bench and there are some big leaders that we’ve had to leave out of the side altogether.

“We’re obviously delighted to have Joel Hodgson back; he was outstanding for us in his last outing away at Plymouth and it’s pretty much a no-brainer for him to come back in. I think that shows how much we rate Joel because we have to leave Dallan out for this one. Dallan was one of the form fly halves in the division earlier in the season when he was fully fit.

“We pick our team on form, Alex Rieder didn’t start a lot of the early games and he was real frustrated with not playing, but he’s taken his opportunity and him and Jack Preece have probably been our best two players in the last three weeks and you just have to play guys in that kind of form.

“If the players are anything like me then they won’t enjoy Christmas Day because we know what’s ahead, this is a monster game! It almost has that feel of a make of break type of game for us; it really is very important.

“Everyone around the club is so excited to be having a Boxing Day game; it seems years since we had a home fixture around this time. We are hoping for a great atmosphere and a massive crowd and it will be worth giving up our Christmas Day if we can get that win.”

Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Michael Keating, 13 Jack Roberts, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Curtis Wilson, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (Capt.), 1 Robin Hislop, 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Colin Quigley, 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Ali Birch, 7 Jack Preece, 8 Alex Rieder.

Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Toby Williams, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Ben Thomas, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Dan White, 22 Joel Gill.

Match Report

Following an edgy and scrappy first forty, in which try-scoring opportunities were limited for both sides; the only points scored came via the boots of Juan Pablo Socino and James Pritchard, with the former edging the kicking contest 3-2.

However, the Titans started the second half with more purpose and desire and the cutting edge that had been absent in the first half was about to explode into life. Just 3 minutes in, on-loan fly half from Newcastle Falcons Joel Hodgson, made an incisive break and cut through the visitors defence before drawing the last man and finding Curtis Wilson in support; the nippy winger collected nicely to score the first try of the match close to the sticks. Socino tagged on the extras as Rotherham went 16-9 up.

The try served as a fillip to the hosts and their intensity and confidence soared, causing Bedford to scramble in defence under the pressure that ensued. Just five minutes later and Hodgson shone to prominence again; this time the lad from the North East showed great vision and pace as he cut a great line to scythe through the Blues defence to score his first try for the club. Socino’s conversion stretched the Titans advantage to 23-6.

Just before the hour mark and the game was put to bed as a contest. Again Hodgson was instrumental in the build up which also included an important contribution from Dan White. And as play shifted across field a fast pair of hands from Sean Scanlon enabled fellow Irishman Michael Keating to go over in the right corner for a well worked team try. Socino just missed the difficult conversion from the touchline as Rotherham extended their lead to 28-6.

Bedford then enjoyed a brief period of possession inside the Titans half and almost made a couple of breaks through the home side’s miserly defence. However, on both occasions cover tackles quickly snuffed out any pending dangers.

As the match wore on Rotherham went in search of securing the bonus point win with a fourth try. But despite the game being lost, Bedford defended as it was they who were holding on to a narrow lead and credit must go to them for that.

However, the last play of the match saw Rotherham awarded a scrum just 5 metres from the Bedford line. And although the visitors had had some early success at the set piece, this time it was the hosts who smashed the Blues backwards and as the visiting scrum disintegrated, referee Steve Lee had little option but to award Rotherham with a penalty try. Socino nailed the conversion to apply the cherry onto the top of the cake and send the Titans back into second spot in the league, just 3 points behind London Welsh.

Titans head coach Lee Blackett was delighted with the result and explained afterwards, “It was an outstanding second half performance. We went into the game with a certain game plan, but I think the boys got themselves over-pumped in the warm up as they knew this was a massive game and they wanted to do well here on Boxing Day. But in doing so it had a negative effect by way of errors in the first half.

“In the second half we were so much better, we were a lot deeper in attack, we were winning the contact area and I thought our scrum got better as the game went on.

“We are really happy with the five points and I think a special mention has to go to Josh Fletcher, our Strength & Conditioning Coach. He’s worked so hard on the boys fitness and you could see out there that both sets of players were tired and to play the game at that high tempo you need to be fit and our boys are real fit thanks to Josh. I think the big thing today was our fitness and also our impact from the bench, which was outstanding.

“We’ve got two young lads in terms of propping in Toby Williams and Mark Tampin; it’s the first real year for both of them at this level of rugby and they are developing nicely and we are massively pleased with their progress since the start of the season. And in Ben Sowrey we know we’ve got a good scrimmaging hooker. We put those three boys on in the second half and they did a really good job and I was pleased for them when they got the penalty try at the end.”

Blackett continued and reflected, “Approaching halfway of what we all know is a tremendously long season; we are top of our group in the British & Irish Cup and in second spot in the league, so we can’t be knocked too much at this stage. But we know there is still a lot of rugby to be played and you don’t finish in the top four after eleven games. We have some massive tests ahead and our next match against Cornish Pirates is a monster game; but we’ll enjoy today’s victory first and then make sure we prepare well for the visit of the Pirates.”

Attendance: 2217
Referee: Steve Lee
Yellow Card: Burke (Bedford)
Titans: Wilson, Hodgson, Keating, Penalty Try, Socino (3P, 3C)
Bedford: Pritchard (2P)

Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Michael Keating, 13 Jack Roberts (Gill 61), 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Curtis Wilson, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (Capt.) (White h/t), 1 Robin Hislop (Williams 55), 2 Tom Cruse (Sowrey 57), 3 Colin Quigley (Tampin 57), 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Dan Sanderson (Thomas 57), 6 Ali Birch (Pearce 43), 7 Jack Preece, 8 Alex Rieder.

Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Toby Williams, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Ben Thomas, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Dan White, 22 Joel Gill.

Bedford: 15 James Pritchard (Capt.), 14 James Short, 13 Brendan Burke (Le Bourgeois h/t), 12 Ollie Dodge, 11 Neville Edwards, 10 Jake Sharp, 9 Darryl Veenendaal (Calder 75), 1 Darren Fearn (Steenkamp 47), 2 Charlie Clare (Harris 62), 3 Ben Cooper (Gilardon Paz 47), 4 Ben Gulliver, 5 Paul Tupai (Jubb 47), 6 Sacha Harding, 7 Tom Armes, 8 Nick Fenton-Wells (Gregor Gillanders 53).

Replacements: 16 TJ Harris, 17 Nico Steenkamp, 18 Tomas Gilardon Paz, 19 Tom Jubb, 20 Gregor Gillanders, 21 Ben Calder, 22 Mike Le Bourgeois.