Cornish Pirates (30) vs Rotherham Titans (13) - Championship
Titans ready for “toughest match in the league!”
Rotherham Titans Head Coach Andre Bester has made just two changes for what he describes as the “toughest match in the league!” And few would argue that Cornish Pirates away is just that.
The two changes are in the pack; Shane Cahill comes in at loose head prop for Jamie Kilbane and Barney Maddison replaces Adrian Griffiths in the second row. Griffiths has trained little this week due to a minor injury.
On the back of last week’s 44-6 victory over league leaders Bristol, 2nd placed Rotherham are full of confidence and could take top spot with a win in Cornwall on Sunday.
However Andre Bester is under no illusions as to the difficulty of the challenge ahead, Bester acknowledged, “There is no doubt that the toughest match in this league is to play Cornish Pirates away! A lot of people would say it is Rotherham at Clifton Lane, but for me Pirates is the toughest assignment in the Championship.
“Pirates were my pre-season favourites for the league and they are now getting their players back. Their stand-out player is Gavin Cattle, for me he is the stand-out player in the Championship and as a player and a captain I have immense respect for him. He personifies the fighting spirit of Pirates and I’m astounded that he his not playing in the Premiership.
“Pirates have match-winners all over the pitch; they have players with the x-factor. They are very strong all over the park, whether it’s their pack, their scrum, their line-out, their driving play, their back play or their ability to create something out of nothing. Pirates are a very good and very dangerous side, but despite all the admiration I have for them, that admiration will stop on Sunday at half past two. Our job is to make sure they don’t perform on our watch!
“We’ve stepped-up our preparation once again this week, every time we have a good win I make it a little more impossible for the players to survive the week and make it a little bit harder both mentally and physically.
“We are going down there to win this match, that’s what our job is. We are a professional outfit now, we have organised ourselves well, we’ve prepared well, we’ve done our homework and we know what we have to go and do. And that is win the match!”
Rotherham Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright, 13 Steve Hamilton, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.), 5 Barney Maddison, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Richard Stout, 19 Adrian Griffiths, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
Errors cost Titans top spot
Rotherham Titans had an off-day in Cornwall as an error-strewn performance resulted in a 30-13 defeat to Cornish Pirates. A Titans victory would have seen them rise to the summit of the Championship table after ten games, however even after defeat they are just three points off top spot.
Titans came out of the blocks slowly and found themselves trailing 15-0 after just 18 minutes. Pirates’ first try by David Doherty came from a Titans knock-on inside their own 22 and their second from Gavin Cattle was particularly disappointing as he picked up from the base of a scrum and glided over far too easily. Cook slotted an 18th minute penalty to give the hosts a comfortable advantage.
Rotherham eventually began to impose themselves and a Garry Law 30 metre break resulted in a Titans penalty on the hosts 22. The fly-half from Hawick knocked over and got Rotherham on the board. On the half-hour mark Tom Foden made a terrific charge through, but unfortunately slipped on the hosts 22. The resulting scramble saw Titans earn a penalty which Law neatly slotted home to reduce the arrears to 15-6.
Five minutes before the break however, Rotherham coughed up possession just inside their 22. Pirates quickly snaffled possession and fed along the line to Jonny Bentley whose neat grubber kick was touched down by Doherty for a crucial score. A magnificent Robin Copeland charge deep into Cornish territory was terminated prematurely as he unfortunately knocked on for the last play of the half.
Ten minutes into the second period and Rotherham were right back in the contest. From a line out around 25 metres out, Titans made a series of pick-and-go drives which took them to within 10 metres. Titans number 8 Semisi Taulava sensed an opportunity and picked up from the base of a ruck and galloped through the defence to score his 5th try of the campaign. Law converted to narrow the gap to just 7 points.
As the hour mark arrived lady luck was about to desert the visitors as Pirates full back Rob Cook put in a huge clearing kick. Tom Foden came round to collect possession inside his 22, but the ball took the cruellest of bounces and squirted 10 metres infield. The resulting skirmish saw Pirates ship the ball quickly across field for Drew Locke to cut in and score under the posts.
Rotherham chased the game, but their eagerness to get back into the contest saw them make frustrating handling errors when in promising positions. Late on Rob Cook knocked over a penalty to give the final score a flattering look to it for the Cornishmen.
A disappointed Andre Bester commented post match, “We were the architects of our own downfall; we probably gave them 17 points on a plate that they didn’t have to work for. They didn’t have to make a line break to score those tries in the first half, while we made four line breaks in the first half and didn’t capitalise on any of them. The opportunities were there but we just didn’t take them.
“The second half we had three line breaks but only scored one try. They only had two line breaks and scored a try, there were just more clinical than us. We were our own biggest enemies.
“We were off the pace a bit and by our own standards we were poor. We played left and right in front of our own posts instead of clearing the danger and we made mistakes and got punished heavily. But this is the process, you can’t play brilliantly week in and week out in this league, but we will learn from this experience and go on and be a better team as a result.”
Referee: Darren Gamage (RFU)
Rotherham Scorers: Taulava (T), Law (2P, 1C).
Pirates Scorers: Doherty (2T), Cattle (T), Locke (T), Cook (2P, 2C).
Rotherham Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright, 13 Steve Hamilton (Hodgson 61), 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Matt Rhodes (Williams 40), 1 Shane Cahill (Kilbane 40), 2 Dan Baines, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.), 5 Barney Maddison (Griffiths 43), 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Richard Stout, 19 Adrian Griffiths, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Jimmy Williams, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
Cornish Pirates: 15 R. Cook, 14 G. Pointer, 13 D. Locke, 12 A. Suniula, 11 D. Doherty, 10 J. Bentley, 9 G. Cattle (Capt.), 1 R. Storer, 2 D. Ward, 3 C. Rimmer, 4 L. McGlone, 5 I. Nimmo, 6 D. Ewers, 7 C. Morgan, 8 B. Maidment.
Replacements: L. Fairbrother, R. Elloway, P. Burgess, B. Cowan, T. Kessell, C. Thomas, R. McAtee.