Rotherham Titans (19) vs Nottingham (11) - Championship
Titans coach Andre Bester is expected to name a similar side to the one that lost narrowly at Bedford last time out in the Championship, although Semisi Taulava is expected to make his return in the number 8 shirt.
Nottingham currently sit 4th in the Championship having recently put together a string of fine results. A number of recent additions to their squad has also seen an upturn in their form and they will fancy themselves to get a result on Saturday.
The clubs first met in National Division Two back in October 1996, where a 6-try performance saw Rotherham seal a 44-21 victory. Of eight previous league visits to Clifton Lane, Nottingham have tasted victory on just one occasion, that being a 19-5 reversal in September 2007. The overall league head to head between the clubs sees Titans hold a slim 9-7 advantage, with one match drawn.
Looking ahead to the game Titans Andre Bester said, “We’ve worked exceptionally hard this week and there’s no lack of respect for any team in this division. It is a fact however that we do focus even more when we play against a side that’s ahead of us in the League.
“Nottingham have put an excellent run of good results together and they are scoring freely, so we really need to be focused for this game. We’ve prepared with a lot of respect this week for the opponents that we have to face Saturday.
“Nottingham have a number of game-breakers and they are very experienced, they are very good at 10, 12 and 13. Their captain Craig Hammond is very experienced and is a great leader of men.
“We lack the experience, depth and continuity that Nottingham have, but it is our job to make sure they don’t come to Clifton Lane and take what they want. We are looking to get the result on Saturday and we will do our upmost to get that result.
“It is important that we keep our 100% winning record at Clifton Lane because then sides have a mental block that they can’t win here and that’s what we want teams to feel when they arrive.”
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 Dan Baines, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.), 5 Adrian Griffiths, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Ben Hooper, 19 Barney Maddison, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
Titans earn impressive victory
Rotherham Titans maintained their push for a top-end finish to the Championship with a hard-earned, but thoroughly deserved 19-11 victory over a very competitive Nottingham side.
Titans 7th victory on the spin in the Championship at Clifton Lane, not only preserved their unbeaten record there this term, but also reinforced their credibility as realistic promotion contenders.
Playing against a strong wind in the first half, with conditions underfoot greasy, Titans conceded the first points when visiting full back Kieran Hallett slotted over a penalty from around halfway.
The hosts hit back with two penalties from Garry Law in a game that was both competitive and very physical. Try-scoring opportunities were few, but the near 2,000 in attendance were enthralled with the intensity of the match.
Titans Dan Baines received a yellow card on 33 minutes after he was adjudged to have made a late tackle on Nottingham’s Ayoola Erinle. Fly-half James Arlidge levelled matters from the resulting penalty and the sides went in at the break level.
It was the host’s that came out for the second period much the brighter and two Garry Law penalties within 10 minutes of the restart saw Titans take a 12-6 lead.
Just after the hour mark and a neat move by the Titans resulted in a marvellous try. Law made the initial break in midfield and made ground before finding Adrian Griffiths in support, the big lock forward proceeded to speed off down the left flank before off-loading to Dave McCall who raced in for his first try for Rotherham. Law converted to make it 19-6.
Concentration levels dipped briefly for the host’s and this allowed Nottingham to hit back. On a rare foray into Titans 22, the visiting pack combined to drive number 8 Alex Shaw over in the far corner for an unconverted try and reduce the arrears to 8 points.
Despite the Green & Whites late endeavour in search of a losing bonus point; the Titans defence held firm and controlled the latter stages masterly.
A contented Titans coach Andre Bester said post match, “All matches are tough in the Championship and this one was no different, Nottingham are a very good side. I think all the coach’s agree; the standard of rugby within the Championship has improved immensely this year. There’s a higher intensity and a higher tempo and that is good for English rugby as a whole.
“It was very physical and very tough; we expected that from Nottingham. After the rain we had last night we knew that the underfoot conditions would be a little bit difficult. We knew they had an exceptionally good pack with a very physical and abrasive back line with big name players in there.
“We knew our defence had to be up to scratch and we needed to control the match and we knew if our pack couldn’t control it, we were going to be in big trouble.
“This match like every one of our other performances this year has been about the team. There’s a great bond between them and they fight tooth and nail for each other all the time.
“I have to say though, we won this match with our defence; we defended exceptionally well throughout. We did perhaps loose a little focus after we scored our try and I was disappointed that we let them in for their try. But we will look at that and make sure it does not happen again.
“But we are content of where we are going into Christmas.”
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Yellow Card: Dan Baines 34.
Rotherham Titans: McCall (T), Law (4P, 1C).
Nottingham: Shaw (T), Hallett (1P), Arlidge (1P).
Rotherham Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright (Hamilton 79), 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams (Rhodes 67), 1 Shane Cahill (Kilbane 73), 2 Dan Baines, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Adrian Griffiths, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Sam Dickinson (Capt.)(Stagg 43-46 sin bin rep).
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Ben Harris, 19 Carl Kirwan, 20 Stephen Hamilton, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
Nottingham: 15 Kieran Hallett, 14 Andrew Savage, 13 Ayoola Erinle (Munro 33), 12 Juan Socino, 11 Mike Penn, 10 James Arlidge, 9 Sean Romans, 1 Michael Holford (Parr 52), 2 Joe Duffey, 3 Ben Prescott (Shields 64), 4 Craig Hammond (Capt.), 5 Nic Rouse (Morley 74), 6 Sione Kalamafoni (Levi 74), 7 Brent Wilson, 8 Alex Shaw.
Replacements: 16 Ollie Taylor, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Lee Morley, 20 Felipo Levi, 21 Nathan Jones, 22 Joe Munro.