League Table

P W D L Pts
2 Worcester Warriors 5 4 0 1 20
3 London Scottish 5 4 0 1 20
4 Doncaster Knights 5 3 0 2 14
5 Rotherham Titans 5 3 0 2 14
6 Nottingham 5 3 0 2 13

Fixtures

Bristol (17) vs Rotherham Titans (14) - Championship Play Off 1st Leg

Saturday May 10th - KO 2:45pm - View Photos

Pre-Match Report

Titans will go into the showdown as massive underdogs as they take on the regular season Championship winners. Bristol will no doubt be confident of progression through to the final after beating Rotherham on three separate occasions this term. In fact the Titans have failed to collect a losing bonus point in each of the three encounters.

But despite all that, Rotherham believe if they perform to their potential they are capable of causing a massive upset and in doing so, set up a huge 2nd leg seven days later at Abbeydale in Sheffield.

Ahead of the game, Rotherham have made six changes to the side that beat basement side Ealing Trailfinders last time out. Along the backline Joel Gill comes in at outside centre, moving Jack Roberts across to inside centre, as Juan Pablo Socino makes a surprise start in the number ten jersey and Michael Keating comes back into contention on the wing.

In the pack Robin Hislop gets the nod over Toby Williams at loosehead prop, Tom Cruse returns at hooker following a shoulder injury and in the second row Josh Thomas-Brown secures his berth after suffering in recent weeks with a calf strain.

Looking ahead to the Titans first-ever Championship semi final appearance, head coach Lee Blackett explained, “There’s no hiding from the fact; this is a massive game for the club and the boys deserve their opportunity to show what they can do at this stage of the season. We’ll go down there with no pressure on us whatsoever from the outside; we’ll put pressure on ourselves because we believe on our day we are good enough to win this game. We know it’s a two-legged affair, but we’ll not be thinking about that, we’ll be going there to try and win the game.

“The pressure that is on us is if we’re not at our best then this Bristol side is capable of embarrassing us. We know we’ll have to be at our best if we are going to compete with them, there’s no doubt about that. They are the best team in the division; the stats don’t lie and you only have to look at the league table to see that. But we feel they are beatable and although it’s going to take a massive effort we feel they are beatable.

“As such we are optimistic going into the game and that’s based on the number of opportunities we’ve created against them this season. We do however have to concentrate on our defence because we’ve conceded some simple tries to them this year.”

Bristol are renowned fast starters to a game and Blackett is aware his side will have to be on red alert from the off, “We know they’ll race out of the blocks because that’s what they do and it’s been a successful ploy for them all year. In our two league games against them this season they blitzed us early and we were virtually out of both games by the 20-minute mark. We will obviously put a big emphasis on our start and we’ll be aiming to come through that period in good shape and hopefully we’ll be ahead by that stage.

“Our preparations have gone well, there’s intensity about the boys and I think they’ve been like that for the last couple of weeks. You can tell something different is about to happen and the boys are excited by the challenge that they’ll face on Saturday.”

Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Jamie Broadley, 13 Joel Gill, 12 Jack Roberts, 11 Michael Keating, 10 Juan Pablo Socino, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (Capt.), 1 Robin Hislop, 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Colin Quigley, 4 Tom Holmes, 5 Josh Thomas-Brown, 6 Alex Rieder, 7 Jack Preece, 8 Alfie To’oala.

Replacements: 16 Ben Morris, 17 Toby Williams, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Ed Williamson, 20 Jordan Davies, 21 Dan White, 22 Dallan Murphy.

Match Report

Going into the high-profile encounter as massive underdogs, Rotherham Titans put in an awesome display, full of guts and determination, to very much earn their narrow reversal. Additionally, had Rotherham maintained their discipline and not collected two yellow cards, then an unforeseen victory may well have been on the cards, particularly when you consider the hosts didn’t score a point whilst the visitors had a full complement of players on the field.

Despite Bristol, as expected, racing out of the blocks and putting Rotherham under intense early pressure, the visitors defended manfully to extinguish the early dangers. Then in the space of four minutes Titans nudged themselves ahead with two Juan Pablo Socino penalties. On 14 minutes and then in the 18th minute, the accurate Argentinian once again demonstrated why he’s kicked over 100 points more than any other player in the division, as he converted both efforts skilfully in the trickiest of conditions.

On 24 minutes and with Rotherham now having the better of the exchanges, they forced a penalty at scrum time just inside their own half. Socino stepped up and incredibly hit the crossbar with his 52 metre effort, before the ball fell forward and over for the score.

As the half hour mark approached Rotherham continued to look threatening and pressed close to the Bristol line, but when just a yard short they were penalised for holding on and Bristol cleared the danger. Shortly after, a kick and chase resulted in Rotherham earning a scrum just five metres from the Bristol line. Unfortunately for the visitors, they were unable to make the most of their position as Bristol got the better at the set piece to avert the danger.

Late on in the half Rotherham were made to defend hard as the hosts gathered some late momentum. This they did however and as referee Tim Wigglesworth blew for half time, the Titans went in at the break 9-0 to the good.

With the strong wind at their backs Bristol started the second period smartly as they enjoyed a period of territory and possession. Then on 48 minutes Titans suffered a major set-back when second rower Josh Thomas-Brown was yellow carded for foul play. Before Brown had returned from his 10 minutes exile Bristol had run in two tries to nudge 10-9 ahead.

First prop forward Gaston Cortes dibbed down following a 15 metre catch and drive and then centre Luke Eves finished off a move for Bristol which started off inside their own 22 following Rotherham turning the ball over. Nicky Robinson missed both conversions in the difficult conditions.

Back to a full complement Rotherham pressed forward and on 65 minutes the impressive Tom Holmes came very close to scoring his first try for the Titans. Unfortunately for him under severe contact from the Bristol defence he knocked on when just two metres short of the line. Undeterred Rotherham continued to press and forced a scrum close to the Bristol line. However the set piece did not function effectively and once again the hosts cleared the danger.

Seven minutes from time and Rotherham suffered their second yellow card when replacement Ed Williamson was penalised at a ruck inside the Titans 22. Again Bristol ruthlessly made the most of their numerical advantage when replacement Mitch Eadie sniped over from close range on 79 minutes. Robinson converted from almost in front of the posts to extend the hosts advantage to 17-9.

The Titans however never gave up on pushing forward for that potentially important score and with the last play of the game they gained some reward for their endeavours. Replacement Jordan Davies made a nice break into Bristol territory before skilfully kicking through for Jamie Broadley to chase down the left wing to score an excellent try. Socino missed his touchline conversion and referee Wigglesworth brought proceedings to an end and in doing so, nicely set-up the 2nd leg for next Saturday at Abbeydale.

A contented Titans head coach Lee Blackett, explained afterwards, “There was a reason why Bristol chose to play the first leg at home; they wanted to try and put the tie to bed. So we came here with the aim of making sure there would be something on the game next week and that’s what’s we’ve done. It’s not often that you win a two legged cup tie in the first leg and we’re content of where we are at half time.

“The boy’s attitude was fantastic, but we had loads of opportunities that we didn’t finish and I think there’s plenty to work on ahead of the 2nd leg. Having said that, the main thing is we’ve kept ourselves in the tie and now we can look forward.

“We spoke in the week of how important the first 20 minutes were going to be, as in our two previous league games against them, we were virtually out of them inside the first 20. I thought our boys were fantastic in that opening period; we won the toss and that’s why we went with the wind in the first half.

“To be 9-0 up after that little spell was an outstanding effort from the lads, especially when you consider we didn’t have a great amount of possession. We had to work real hard in the first half and I thought our defence was outstanding and I was proud of the effort the boys gave.

“I was really disappointed with the two yellow cards we received, it cost the team heavily and they were both correct decision by the referee. So we’ll move on and we’ll try to improve, but we’ve got to keep fifteen men on the field for the full eighty minutes next week. Because as we all saw, we conceded three tries in those two ten minute spells. If that happens again we are going to struggle.

“For me, it would have been really harsh on us if we hadn’t come away with that final score, because the boys had worked so hard and created plenty of opportunities throughout the game. Jordan made a really good decision to kick through and Jamie Broadley did what all good finishes do by getting on the end of it to score. Jamie’s done that for years at different levels, he’s a natural finisher and we’ve seen a lot of that from him in the last couple of weeks.

“The game next week is now set up nicely and it’s going to be a massive occasion for us. We’ve done everything we could have done at Bristol; now we’ve got to take it back to Abbeydale and make Abbeydale our home and then that can make a massive difference for the return leg.

“We’ve just played our biggest game for ten years, but next Saturday’s game is now even bigger. We have the opportunity of reaching the final and potentially going into the Premiership, which is crazy from where we’ve come from at the start of the year.

“So I’d say to all our supporters PLEASE get to Abbeydale and give these boys all your support, just as you have done up and down the country all season long. You really can be the difference and in close games you are the 16th man.”

Attendance: 5839
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Yellow Card: Thomas-Brown & Williamson (Titans)
Titans: Broadley (T), Socino (3P)
Bristol: Cortes (T), Eves (T), Eadie (T), Robinson (1C)

Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Jamie Broadley, 13 Joel Gill (Davies 53), 12 Jack Roberts, 11 Michael Keating, 10 Juan Pablo Socino, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (Capt.) (White 74), 1 Robin Hislop (Williams 66), 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Colin Quigley (Tampin 66), 4 Tom Holmes, 5 Josh Thomas-Brown, 6 Alex Rieder, 7 Jack Preece, 8 Alfie To’oala (Williamson 62).

Replacements: 16 Ben Morris, 17 Toby Williams, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Ed Williamson, 20 Jordan Davies, 21 Dan White, 22 Dallan Murphy.

Bristol: 15 Auguy Slowik (Hughes 66); 14 George Watkins, 13 Jack Tovey, 12 Luke Eves, 11 Andy Short; 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Ruki Tipuna (Baldwin 76); 1 Kyle Traynor, 2 Rhys Lawrence (Johnston 60), 3 Gaston Cortes (Hall 60), 4 Ben Glynn, 5 Mark Sorenson (Capt.), 6 Nick Koster, 7 Ross Rennie, 8 Marco Mama (Eadie 62).

Replacements: 16 Ross Johnston, 17 James Hall, 18 Glen Townson, 19 Mitch Eadie, 20 Luke Baldwin, 21 Adrian Jarvis, 22 Adam Hughes.