Rotherham Titans (14) vs Cornish Pirates (19) - Championship
All change for Titans
Along the back line sees the return of Stephen Hamilton, Dave McCall, Pale Nonu, Shane Monahan and Jimmy Williams. In the forwards there’s a new front row combination of Jamie Kilbane, Dan Baines and Rob O’Donnell, whilst a new back row combination sees Robin Copeland, Sean Dougall and Semisi Taulava return to action. Barney Maddison returns to lock after last week’s run out in the back row.
On the bench Tom Armes will be looking to get an opportunity to show the Rotherham faithful what he can do. The duel registered Leicester Tigers back rower is expected to get some game time against Pirates.
Rotherham will be aiming to maintain their impressive form at Clifton Lane, although the overall record between the sides see Pirates hold an 11-5 advantage in all competitions.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, Titans head coach Andre Bester said, “Pirates will present us with a difficult challenge, they will travel knowing they have already beaten us down there earlier in the season and will fancy turning us over at the Lane.
“Our home form is important to us and Clifton Lane is a difficult venue for opposition to come to and get the victory. We need to ensure that remains the same and I know if we play to our abilities, we are confident of getting the result we want against any team in the division.”
Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Stephen Hamilton, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Cliffie Hodgson, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Neale Patrick, 5 Barney Maddison, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall (Capt.), 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Ben Hooper, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Tom Armes, 21 Ed Tellwright, 22 Peter Homan.
Rusty Rotherham Lose At The Lane
With the majority of Rotherham’s squad not having played a game of rugby for a month, it was not too surprising to see elements of rust about their performance and hence the 14-19 reversal to one of the very best sides in the division, was probably not a shock to too many at Clifton Lane.
Titans going a try down within 2 minutes of the start didn’t help their cause, as they were caught cold as Pirates hooker Dave Ward was driven over from a catch and drive move.
Nevertheless the home side responded well in the 13th minute; Tom Foden made a neat break deep into Pirates territory before quick ball arrived with Barney Maddison who powerfully crashed over in the corner. Garry Law’s excellent touchline conversion nudged Titans into a 7-5 lead.
Titans made promising progress thereon, but all too often little errors cost them the momentum they were seeking. On 27 minutes the ball popped out of a Titans scrum unexpectedly and quickest to react was Pirates scrum half Tom Kessell, his speed and awareness allowed him to run in and score Pirates 2nd try of the match.
As the half drew to a close and with Pirates edging matters, the visitors forced two further penalties which fly half Ceiron Thomas slotted over to give the visitors at 16-7 advantage at the break.
Pirates continued to press early on in the second period and won another penalty on 47 minutes which allowed Thomas to increase the visitors lead to 19-7.
Just three minutes later and Rotherham responded magnificently. Again Tom Foden broke the gain line and made significant yards deep into Pirates half. The ball was then quickly fed along the line and arrived with Robin Copeland who showed tremendous strength to crash over under the duress of two tacklers hanging from him. Law converted nicely to reduce the arrears to 5 points.
Rotherham pressed on looking for a winning score and often found themselves in threatening positions, however, the ‘ring-rust’ was evident as on more than one occasion handling errors cost them dearly. In the end the clock beat them and Pirates held on for a deserved victory.
Post game a relatively upbeat Titans coach Andre Bester reflected, “This is a process that we have to go through and I’ve said that many times before. A lot of our players haven’t played for a month and some of them for longer than that. Also in the last two weeks, because of the weather we haven’t been able to train on the pitch. We haven’t been able to do proper sessions in the last two weeks and that makes a huge difference on match days. I thought we looked rusty because of that.
“It was critical that we played this match, but we did look like a team that has not played for a number of weeks. The positives are we manage to take a point out of the match and we scored two outstanding tries.
“It was disappointing that their two tries came off our errors, but our defence was outstanding, particularly so in the second half. Of course there are certain things that we will look at going forward, but overall I thought it was a great exercise for us. Obviously we wanted to win the match, but I am very happy with what we took from the game.”
Referee: Michael Tutty
Titans: Maddison (T), Copeland (T), Law (2C).
Pirates: Ward (T), Kessell (T), Thomas (3P).
Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Carl Kirwan (Dave McCall 47), 13 Shane Monahan, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Stephen Hamilton, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Jamie Kilbane (Ben Harris 47), 2 Dan Baines (Ted Stagg 61), 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Neale Patrick (Robin Copeland 47), 5 Barney Maddison (Talite Vaioleti 61), 6 Sam Dickinson (Capt.), 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Ben Hooper, 19 Talite Vaioleti, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Ed Tellwright, 22 Dave McCall.
Pirates: 15 Matt Evans, 14 Darren Daniel (Rhodri McAtee 78), 13 Andy Short, 12 Tom Cooper, 11 Grant Pointer, 10 Ceiron Thomas, 9 Tom Kessell, 1 Ryan Storer (Paul Andrew 68), 2 Dave Ward, 3 Alan Paver, 4 Matt Smith (Ben Maidment 78), 5 Ian Nimmo, 6 Chris Morgan, 7 Phil Burgess, 8 Kyle Marriott (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Paul Andrew, 17 Tom Cowan-Dickie, 18 Carl Rimmer, 19 Ben Maidment, 20 Rhodri McAtee, 21 Aaron Penberthy, 22 James Doherty.