Rotherham Titans (20) vs London Welsh (21) - Championship
Titans look to bounce-back against Welsh
Andre Bester makes six changes to his starting 15, two of which are positional. In the back line, the only change sees Peter Homan come in on the wing for Ed Tellwright. Homan has patiently been waiting in the wings for another opportunity to shine, after starting the first four Championship games of the season.
Jamie Kilbane and Ted Stagg start in the front row, whilst Carl Kirwan makes his 2nd Championship start of the campaign at blindside flanker. Club captain Sam Dickinson moves from number 8 into the second row as Titans top try scorer Robin Copeland wears the number 8 jersey.
London Welsh currently sit third in the table, after also coming off a disappointing and surprising 7-10 home defeat to Moseley and will no doubt themselves be eager to get back to winning ways. Titans visit to Old Deer Park back in October, was arguably their best performance to date. A thrilling 33-25 victory, not only secured 5 points on the day, but also suggested that Titans maybe a threat a play-off time.
The overall head to head in all competitions has Rotherham holding a 16-8 advantage; however in recent times it is the Exiles who have had the better of things, having won 6 of the last 9 encounters.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s match Titans coach Andre Bester commented, “Welsh are a physical side and currently have the best defence in the division. Their set piece is good and solid and they are very good in general play. In Gordon Ross they have the most experienced fly-half in the Championship and he can dictate games for them.
“They have a lot of pace and a lot of skill, their movement on and off the ball is very good and it will be our job to try and take that away from them and put them under pressure. The best way we can do that is to put in a performance; we need to make sure we have the belief and intensity about our game if we want to gain the result we’d like.”
Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Peter Homan, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Sam Dickinson (Capt.), 6 Carl Kirwan, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Robin Copeland.
Replacements: 16 Dan Baines, 17 Shane Cahill, 18 Ben Harris, 19 Adrian Griffiths, 20 Elliot Brierley, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
Titans edged out by Welsh
Rotherham Titans disappointingly lost their 100% win record at Clifton as they narrowly went down 20-21 to London Welsh.
An outstanding first half performance by Rotherham saw them go in at the break with a worthy 20-10 lead and arguably, it could have been more had Robin Copeland grounded the ball when over the Welsh line.
Rotherham took the lead in the 10th minute with a Garry Law penalty and then built on that with a Rob O’Donnell try just three minutes later, after good work by the pack from a line out on the Welsh 22.
Against the run of play on 17 minutes Welsh turned Titans over in the loose and quickly fed ball to outside centre James Lewis, who raced through a break in the home defence to touch down for Alex Davies to convert.
Twenty minutes in and Copeland broke nicely and appeared to score a try, however the likeable Irishman knocked the ball on under pressure when about to touch down. Titans did increase their lead 5 minutes later with another Law penalty after Welsh had strayed offside inside their own 22.
Five minutes before the break with the host’s in total ascendancy, Welsh openside flanker Mike Denbee received a yellow card for persistent infringement at the breakdown. From the penalty Rotherham opted for the scrum and this paid off as they earned a penalty try. Law converted to extend their lead to 20-7.
On the stoke of half time Alex Davies knocked over a tricky penalty as Rotherham were pinged by the referee for holding on and the sides went in with Titans holding a comfortable 20-10 advantage.
The second period was almost totally dominated by the visitors, with the home defence made to work extremely hard throughout. Welsh nibbled into Titans lead on 52 minutes when Davies knocked over a penalty inside the host’s 22.
Approaching the hour mark and following immense forward pressure by the Welsh pack, winger Joe Ajuwa popped-up to score near the corner for an unconverted try and reduce their arrears to two points.
Welsh continued to dominate territory and possession and although they couldn’t breach the Rotherham line, they did however force another penalty close to the posts. Davies stepped up to convert in the difficult windy conditions and give Welsh the lead for the first time with 5 minutes remaining.
Finally Rotherham managed to get some field position and in the 8th minute of added time almost won the game when Copeland was stopped inches short of the Welsh line. However Rotherham knocked on and referee Tutty blew for time.
A disappointed Titans coach Andre Bester reflected, “Any loss is disappointing and particularly so at home, but in the bigger picture it is a means to an end. At half time we were in complete control of the game, but our game management in the second half was poor. We were kicking ball directly into touch, we were kicking ball dead and we were suddenly giving penalties away, which we normally don’t do.
“The bottom line is we were very good in the first half and we were as poor in the second half as we were good in the first. The cross-field wind did make it difficult, but the only time we had any decent field position was in the last 5 minutes of the match.
“Welsh are a very experienced side with a lot of boys who have Premiership experience and in the second half they just outplayed us. They completely out-played us and we have no excuses.
“The positive is it’s a good learning curve for us, we have a team that’s just got together this year and they are learning all the time. But they are still learning; they need to learn how to play the conditions and how to get their execution right.”
Referee: Michael Tutty
Titans: Rob O’Donnell (T), Penalty Try, Garry Law (2P, 2C).
London Welsh: James Lewis (T), Joe Ajuwa (T), Alex Davies (3P, 1C).
Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Peter Homan (Pale Nonu 60), 13 Dave McCall, 12 Cliffie Hodgson, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Jamie Kilbane (Shane Cahill 61), 2 Ted Stagg (Dan Baines 49), 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Sam Dickinson (Capt.), 6 Carl Kirwan (Adrian Griffiths 70), 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Robin Copeland.
Not Used: Ben Harris, Matt Rhodes, Elliot Brierley.
London Welsh: 15. Alex Davies, 14. Liam Gibson (Will Hurrell 65), 13. Hudson Tonga’uiha, 12. James Lewis, 11. Joe Ajuwa, 10. Gordon Ross (Capt.), 9. Rob Lewis, 1. Tom French, 2. Saul Nelson, 3. Shawn Pittman, 4. Matt Corker, 5. Martin Purdy, 6. Lee Beach, 7. Mike Denbee, 8. Ed Jackson.
Not Used: Nathan Morris, Billy Moss, Gary Johnson, Ben Russell, Jack Moates, Edd Thrower.