Leeds (25) vs Rotherham Titans (19) - Championship
Same again for Titans
Rotherham Titans are expected to name the same squad that beat Doncaster Knights in a very physical battle at Clifton Lane last Saturday, as they prepare for another tough Yorkshire derby, away at Leeds Carnegie on Friday evening, kick off 8pm.
Titans’ preparations have gone well this week; however there are a number of players carrying the usual bumps and bruises that you would expect at this stage of the season. Andre Bester may have to tweak his side should one or two of them not be quite ready and they may be late changes as a result.
Titans are fully aware of the difficult challenge Leeds will present at Headingley Carnegie, particularly as the West Yorkshire outfit are on a 6-match winning spree and have a number of key players returning after injury.
The overall head to head in league rugby sees Rotherham holding an 8-5 advantage and Titans are optimistic of repeating their early season victory of Carnegie when the two sides clash on Friday.
Titans Head Coach Andre Bester is conscious of the difficult task ahead and remarked, “I’ve said the toughest assignment in the Championship, in terms of places to go is Pirates away, there’s no doubt about that. But the best team right now in terms of form and ability is Leeds. They are very professional, very experienced; they have exceptional experience all over the park.
“They have lots of guys that have played at a much higher level than our boys; they have Premiership experience and lots of big game experience. It’s taken them a little bit of time to adjust to the Championship, but they have acclimatised now and they are perceived as the best side in the division.
“It is a big assignment for us, but I’ve never turned up at places not wanting to win and I’ve never turned up at places not seeking the win and that’s the only thing we are looking at when we travel to Leeds.”
Rotherham Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Ben Hooper, 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.), 5 Adrian Griffiths, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements From: 16 Dan Baines, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Rob O’Donnell, 19 Barney Maddison, 20 Steve Hamilton, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson, 23 Carl Kirwan, 24 Byron Godfrey.
Rotherham Titans collected a losing bonus point as they narrowly fell short away at Yorkshire rivals Leeds Carnegie, going down by 25-19 in an enthralling and competitive encounter.
Not until referee Ian Tempest blew for full time was the result sealed as Rotherham pressed in the closing moments searching for a converted try that would have given them the spoils. On the balance of the 80 minutes however Leeds just about deserved their narrow victory, although Titans can take solace from how close they came to upsetting last season’s Premiership side.
Played under lights in front of Carnegie’s largest crowd of the season the hosts edged matters early on and nudged ahead on 6 minutes with a Tommy Bell penalty. Within ten minutes however Titans had the lead after two 40-metre plus penalties from Garry Law. Law could have extended the visitors lead further, but pushed his long range penalty attempt just left of the sticks.
Leeds were looking bright whenever the ball was fed to their back line and Ed Tellwright made a crucial tackle into touch when danger threatened down the left flank. Rotherham were edging the physical contest up front and won a penalty on 34 minutes after Leeds infringed at the scrum. Again Law stepped up to knock over from 45 metres and extend Titans advantage. A deliberate knock-on by Sean Dougall on the stroke of half time allowed Bell’s penalty to make it a 3-point game at the break.
Two minutes into the second period and Law surprisingly missed what he would consider an easy 3 points from the 22 on a slight angle! Leeds pressed but found it difficult to penetrate the Titans defence; hence the ball was fed back to Joe Ford in the pocket who neatly slotted a drop-goal from 30 metres to level matters.
Rotherham responded with a terrific break by Tom Foden who was stopped close to the Leeds line. The ball was recycled and from the base of a ruck close to the line, Robin Copeland picked up and dived over a multitude of bodies to score the first try of the match. Law converted to give Titans a 16-9 advantage.
Leeds pressed again and again used Ford in the pocket as the preferred option; he duly obliged to secure his 2nd drop-goal on 52 minutes. The momentum now was with Leeds and on the hour mark; former Titan Ryan Burrows broke the gain line and made 25 metres deep into Titans territory before off-loading to Michael Stephenson to touch down. Bell converted to nudge Carnegie into a 19-16 lead.
A poor restart put Titans under pressure and as a result Leeds manufactured field position to allow Ford to complete his hat-trick of drop-goals. Law and Bell then traded penalties to make it a 6-point game with five minutes remaining.
Two minutes from time Shane Monahan fed the onrushing Stephen Hamilton who broke through at pace on the Leeds 22. However the pass was deemed forward and Leeds breathed a sigh of relief. Into stoppage time and Law unluckily knocked on inside the danger zone after bursting through the Tykes defence. Rotherham pressed massively at the death but the hosts just held out with some resilient defending.
Post game Titans coach Andre Bester had no issues with the final score, “We were outperformed at the kicking game, Joe Ford had an excellent kicking game and they knew what they were doing and we were always under pressure in terms of that. The bottom line is I’m responsible and I should have seen beforehand that was what they were going to do.
“We came back well in the second half, but once again we put ourselves under pressure with their kicking game. They put us deep into our half and our exit plays were poor and that gave them field position and they took advantage of that with three drop goals. Ford’s execution was outstanding and we’ve no complaints.”
Bester continued in optimistic fashion, “We know Leeds are a good side, but we inflicted certain things on ourselves at times but when we got it right I thought we looked good. We saw two good sides tonight and I didn’t think there was that much between them, I’m sure both teams will be heavily involved in the play-offs. The difference for me was the great kicking game that Joe Ford had.
“The positive for us is we came away with a bonus point, you never want to come away empty handed. I knew it was going to be very tough and very tight and I would have taken the bonus point beforehand.”
Bester’s counterpart at Leeds Diccon Edwards paid tribute to Rotherham’s efforts and admitted he is in no hurry to face them again any time soon, he remarked, “I wouldn’t want to meet Rotherham in the play-offs because they are an outstanding side, they are exceptionally well drilled and you know what’s coming at you, there are very physical and they play with passion but you’ve just got to deal with it. That was a really hard victory for us tonight and we’ll have to lick our wounds in the morning.
“Rotherham kept coming at us right to the very end, the last 30 seconds I thought we’d win our scrum and kick it out. Then Rotherham turned us over in the scrum and suddenly you think are we going to have a finish that we didn’t want. So credit to Rotherham and I think that showed they are a very fit side.”
Next up for Rotherham is the visit of Plymouth Albion on Saturday at Clifton Lane, kick off 2pm.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Rotherham Scorers: Copeland (T), Law (4P, 1C).
Leeds Scorers: Stephenson (T), Bell (3P, 1C), Ford (3 D/G).
Rotherham Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright (Hodgson 68), 13 Dave McCall (Hamilton 68), 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill (Kilbane 59), 2 Dan Baines, 3 Ben Hooper (O’Donnell 59), 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Adrian Griffiths, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall (Capt.), 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Rob O’Donnell, 19 Carl Kirwan, 20 Steve Hamilton, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
Leeds Carnegie: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Lee Blackett, 13 Iain Thornley, 12 Joe Barker, 11 Michael Stephenson, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Robbie Shaw, 1 Mike MacDonald, 2 Andy Titterrell (Capt.), 3 David Young, 4 Tom Denton, 5 Dan Hemingway, 6 Ryan Burrows, 7 Chris Walker, 8 Jacob Rowan.
Replacements: 16 Phil Nilsen, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Mo Mustafa, 19 Richard Beck, 20 Danny Paul, 21 Dan White, 22 Pete Lucock.