Rotherham Titans (44) vs Bristol (6) - Championship
Rotherham ready for table toppers
Rotherham Titans have made six changes ahead of table topping Bristol’s visit to Clifton Lane this Saturday, kick off 3pm.
There are three changes in the back line which sees Steve Hamilton start at outside centre, replacing Elliott Brierley, who had a fine game at Moseley. The half back combination of Garry Law and Jimmy Williams will return to the fray, in place of Cliffie Hodgson and Matt Rhodes.
In the pack Ted Stagg returns for Dan Baines at hooker and there’s a welcome return for fans favourites Sam Dickinson and Sean Dougall. The former starts at lock for Barney Maddison while the latter returns at open side flanker for last week’s star man Carl Kirwan.
Bristol will no doubt provide a stern test for the South Yorkshireside as they currently sit top of the pile with 7 wins from 8 matches played. Their only defeat came earlier in the season with the narrowest of defeats away to Leeds. Bristol can also boast to having the best defence in the Championship, having conceded just 128 points so far.
The overall league head to head between the sides sees Bristol hold a slender 6-4 advantage, although Rotherham achieved the league double over Bristol last term. Head Coach Andre Bester recognises what a difficult challenge Bristol will present but believes his charges are up for the task, Bester said, “Bristol are the leaders, but so were Bedford and London Welsh! But there’s absolutely no doubt Bristol are a good side, you don’t get there being a bad side. Bristol have consistency and they win matches and they win the close matches.
“They had a narrow loss away to Leeds earlier in the season, but they have learnt from that experience and kicked on. So there’s no doubt that Bristol are a very good side, exceptionally experienced and although they have brought some new guys in, they do have continuity.
“Bristol are one of the most traditional clubs in English rugby with exceptional history behind them. They have to carry the burden of that history around with them, because a club like that with the support they have should not be in the Championship, they should be in the Premiership.
“It’s our job however not to let them continue their charge on our watch. For us the important thing is this match, we know they want to come here and put one over on us and we will be ready for that challenge. But we know that is going to be tough because they are a good abrasive side who are very direct and can play the total game. Whether it’s a tight game or a loose game they can do everything very well.
“But we’ve worked very hard in training this week; I don’t believe the boys have worked as hard all season in preparation of this game. And for us, it’s about winning this match and us taking the points.”
RotherhamTitans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright, 13 Steve Hamilton, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.), 5 Adrian Griffiths, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements From: 16 Dan Baines, 17 Shane Cahill, 18 Ben Hooper, 19 Barney Maddison, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson, 23 Ben Harris, 24 Elliott Brierley.
News from Bristol
Liam Middleton makes four changes from the side that recorded a thrilling victory over London Welsh, as Bristol Rugby go in search of their sixth successive league win.
Five points clear at the top of the RFU Championship, Bristol make the long journey to Clifton Lane on Saturday to face a resurgent Rotherham Titans (3pm KO).
In the backline, Junior Fatialofa returns after a five-game absence to start alongside top-scorer Jack Tovey in the midfield. Matty James continues at fly-half with Tristan Roberts still unavailable through injury.
Middleton shuffles his pack in the forwards, making two changes in the front row. Darren Crompton and Ross Johnston replace Mark Irish and Rhys Lawrence, while Darren Barry makes his first league start of the season.
A very strong replacement bench, including Roy Winters and Rhys Lawrence, sees a five forwards and two backs split.
Bristol Rugby team to face Rotherham at Clifton Lane on Saturday 29 October (3pm KO):
Sean Marsden; George Watkins, Jack Tovey, Junior Fatialofa, Jon Goodridge; Matty James, Tom Slater; Darren Crompton, Ross Johnston, Jason Hobson, Mariano Sambucetti, Darren Barry, Josh Ovens, James Merriman, Iain Grieve (c).
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Mark Irish, Wayne Thompson, Roy Winters, Marco Mama, Louis Silver, Mark Davies.
Terrific Titans Bully Bristol In Thriller
Rotherham Titans produced a powerful display of rugby to move into 2nd place in the Championship after toppling league leaders Bristol 44-6 at Clifton Lane.
In breezy conditions Rotherham scored four excellent tries with Garry Law kicking nine out of ten attempts at the sticks, including one mammoth 50-yarder into the wind! Bristol’s reward for their effort was two Matty James penalties.
The early exchanges were tight and messy with both sides conceding penalties and after 15 minutes the score was tied at 6-apiece with Garry Law and Matty James trading kicks. A few minutes earlier however, Tom Foden had joined the line at pace and appeared to find a gap in the visitors defence and looked likely to score. Unfortunately referee Terry Hall got in the way and brought Foden down with a ‘fine tackle’ to alleviate the danger for Bristol.
Foden was in the thick of things again two minutes later when his charge was abruptly halted by a high tackle from Bristol tight head Jason Hobson. After a stern talking to, referee Hall decided to keep his cards in his pocket and award Titans a penalty 22 yards from goal. Law stepped up and bisected the uprights and did so again on 23 minutes to extend the hosts lead to 12-6.
Perhaps the turning point of the match came on the half hour mark, when a series of Bristol scrums on the Rotherham line was defended wonderfully well. After conceding two penalties at the scrum, it was thought that the next one would result in a penalty try which would have given the visitors a 13-12 lead. However at the fifth attempt it was Rotherham that were awarded the penalty and the danger was cleared.
As half time approached and with Titans getting on top, Law knocked over his 5th penalty from around 45 metres to increase the lead to 15-6. In added time at the end of the first half, a break from Sam Dickinson who interchanged with Robin Copeland saw Titans get close to the Bristol line. The ball came out and was fed to Law; his pass found the onrushing Pale Nonu who crashed through to score his 3rd try of the campaign. Law converted and brought the first period to a close with the home side leading 22-6.
Bristol started the second half eager as they looked to get a foothold in the contest. It was however Rotherham who scored next with a booming 50 metre penalty into the wind from Garry Law.
It got better for Rotherham on 66 minutes, when the ball arrived with Robin Copeland near the right flank between the Rotherham 22 and 10 metre line. Copeland collected and proceeded to run infield before cutting back inside and then galloping through the Bristol defence 50 metres to score quite a spectacular try. Law missed the tricky conversion attempt.
Five minutes from time and with Rotherham now in total control, the hosts extended their advantage further. A Bristol scrum 30 metres from their own line was stolen by Titans, who through Jimmy Williams break and long miss pass found Shane Monahan who collected gladly to race in for a try.
The pressure mounted on Bristol and it told when replacement Roy Winters was yellow carded for preventing quick ball for Titans, who were searching for the bonus point try.
That try did eventually arrive deep into injury time when the outstanding Rotherham pack turned Bristol over 10 metres inside the Rotherham half. The ball was quickly spread out to Shane Monahan on the left flank and he showed excellent pace to race 60 metres up-field to score his second and Rotherham’s 4th try of the match. Law converted and brought the afternoon’s entertainment to an end.
The result will no doubt have one or two Championship heads turning in the South Yorkshire direction. However, Titans head coach Andre Bester is not concerned about that at this stage of the season. After the game Bester calmly stated, “We had a satisfactory second half display, but not a good first half display; we didn’t get into the match in the first half. In the second half our conditioning counted, but I didn’t think we played well in the first half at all, we were leading but it wasn’t good. In the second half we were clinical but we are making so many errors still and we need to sort that out because the further we go into the season it will count against us.
“The turning point was the five scrums on our line in the first half and that came from a mistake that we made. We defended brilliantly on our line, the first two scrums both sides went up but the referee was correct, then twice he blew them up without giving them a penalty and in my opinion it should have been penalties for us, because they stood up in those scrums and we were pushing them back.
“It’s still very early in the season though and who is top right now doesn’t matter. What does matter is, if we get to the play-offs, who is the team that’s on form and who is the team that can ride out injuries and that is going to be important. Today’s result is insignificant if you compare it to if we play them in the play-offs, what will today’s result count for, it’s 5 points but that’s it. It was a good performance, but it doesn’t really matter compared to what’s going to happen at the end of the year.
“It was also good that we haven’t sustained any more injuries today; we have big players that are sidelined at the moment. Neale Patrick and Talite Vaioleti are big injuries for us and they will add something extra when they return.
“It’s a satisfying win when you hear how other team’s fitness and how great their fitness is and they win matches at the end. You see our team and our set-up at Don Valley and how hard we work off each other and I’ve said it many times before, I don’t recruit players I recruit people and the boys we have here at Rotherham are a special group of people.”
Referee: Terry Hall
Rotherham Scorers: Nonu (T), Copeland (T), Monahan (2T), Law (3C, 6P).
Bristol Scorers: James (2P).
Yellow cards: Winters (71).
Rotherham Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright, 13 Steve Hamilton, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Rob O’Donnell (Hooper 56), 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.) (Maddison 67), 5 Adrian Griffiths, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements From: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Shane Cahill, 18 Ben Hooper, 19 Barney Maddison, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
Bristol: 15 Sean Marsden: 14 George Watkins, 13 Jack Tovey, 12 Junior Fatialofa, 11 Jon Goodridge, 10 Matty James, 9 Tom Slater, 1 Darren Crompton, 2 Ross Johnston, 3 Jason Hobson, 4 Mariano Sambucetti, 5 Darren Barry, 6 Josh Ovens, 7 James Merriman, 8 Iain Grieve (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Lawrence, 17 Mark Irish, 18 Wayne Thompson, 19 Roy Winters, 20 Marco Mama, 21 Louis Silver, 22 Mark Davies.