Leeds (3) vs Rotherham Titans (20) - Championship Play Offs Pool B
Titans expect tough derby battle
Titans Head Coach Andre Bester has opted to start with the same 15 players that dominated Bedford Blues for much of last Saturday’s match, only to concede three very late tries and have victory snatched from their grasp. There are however two changes on the bench; Rob O’Donnell comes in for Talite Vaioleti and Peter Homan returns for Byron Godfrey.
During Stage 1 of the season, clashes between the sides were closely fought encounters with each side winning their home game and each side receiving the losing bonus point. A similar tight encounter is anticipated on Sunday in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Looking ahead to the fixture Titans Head Coach Andre Bester commented, “It’s margins that wins Championship’s, It’s margins that win rugby matches. There were far too many marginal errors at critical times that cost us the match against Bedford last week. It was our unforced errors more than anything else that cost us that game. We need to make sure against Leeds we don’t have the same lapses in concentration that we had last week.
“If we get into the right areas of the pitch we need to score, we need to come away with points. We need to make sure we don’t make those critical errors, because they can be terminal.
“It doesn’t matter that you play the best rugby for 72 minutes and be the best team on the pitch and then in the last 8 minutes of the match concede 21 points. It’s just not something that good players and a good team do and if we aspire to be a good team with major players in there, then it can’t happen against Leeds on Sunday.
“Leeds will provide us with a traditional Yorkshire derby where no quarter will be asked or given. They have an exceptionally good set up, good coaches and very good players that deserve the highest respect. Leeds are in a good place right now and they are in fine form. They earned a terrific result at Pirates last week, not many teams go down there and get a result.
“We know it will be tough to go to Leeds and get the result, but we are not going there to lose the match we are going there aiming to get the win.”
Leeds Carnegie Head Coach Diccon Edwards also anticipates a tough encounter as he remarked, “I think they will be very tough for a number of reasons. This is a derby game and they are always fiery encounters whenever Leeds and Rotherham clash but add to that the importance of the game in the play offs and it is set up really well. Rotherham were very unlucky last week, having watched the game they should have had the game won well before the end and then to lose it in the manner they did will have hit them hard. They will come out fired up on Sunday and we have to be ready for that.”
Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Stephen Hamilton, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Ben Hooper, 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.), 5 Barney Maddison, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Rob O’Donnell, 19 Adrian Griffiths, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Peter Homan.
Superb Titans claim bragging rights
Rotherham Titans put in an outstanding display to beat Leeds Carnegie 20-3 at Headingley and claim the Yorkshire bragging rights in the process. Additionally and more importantly, Titans’ got their season back on track and are now just a point off 2nd spot as they maintain their push for a semi final berth.
Although not acknowledged beforehand, a loss to Leeds would have made it incredibly difficult for the Titans to progress further in the competition. Hence, the result and manner of performance under such intense pressure, highlighted the spirit, character and ‘never say die’ attitude ingrained in this group of Titans players.
Titans demonstrated bags of spirit from the off and were rewarded as early as the 4th minute when Garry Law tapped over a penalty. On top and showing plenty of intensity, Titans created a drop goal opportunity for Law on 12 minutes. The Championship’s leading points scorer maintained his cool under pressure to slot home and extend the visitors advantage.
Although not dominant in the scrum, Titans forced a penalty at the set piece approaching the half hour mark. Once again the Hawick native calmly struck the ball through the uprights to send Titans 9-0 ahead.
Two minutes later it appeared that Sean Dougall had touched down near the sticks for a Titans’ try. However, referee Llyr Apgeraint Roberts deemed Semisi Taulava’s pass to Dougall a forward one. Sky Sports camera’s clearly showed Mr. Roberts had made an error.
Not deterred Titans pushed on and two minutes later Pale Nonu shipped a sharp pass on to Robin Copeland. Copeland collected at pace and proceeded to hand off Leeds tight head Halani Aulika and race through to touch down for an unconverted try. Sadly for Rotherham at this point, club captain Sam Dickinson had to leave the field with a suspected broken arm and Titans went in at the break 14-0 ahead.
Into the 2nd half and Rotherham continued to impress and further pressure resulted in Leeds conceding a penalty which Law once again knocked over competently. Leeds endeavoured to force the pace and gain field position and eventually got on the scoreboard with a Tommy Bell penalty just after the hour mark. Moments later however, a high tackle on Pale Nonu allowed Garry Law to take his match total to 15 points after he bisected the uprights from the resulting penalty.
Ten minutes from time Sean Dougall made an incredible last-gasp tackle to prevent Leeds winger Stevie McColl grounding the ball over the try line and with that act went what slim hopes Leeds had in terms of getting back into the contest. Rotherham continued to defend manfully and saw the game through to end up deservedly 20-3 victors.
A delighted Andre Bester commented afterwards, “We are very happy with the result and the performance, although it wasn’t a flawless performance. We defended exceptionally well, we made some tactical changes in defence and we worked very hard on our concentration levels. Last week our concentration levels dropped late on and we conceded 21 points in the final 8 minutes. Had that not happened then we would be in clear 2nd place right now, but there’s still everything to play for and we know that.
“We know if we play well and apply ourselves, we are very difficult to beat. When we play well there’s not too many sides out there that can beat us and they need to play exceptionally well to do that.
“We shut it down in the 2nd half and maybe we should have gone on and tried to put them away, but in all fairness to Leeds they brought a whole cluster of replacements on and most of my replacements are inexperienced young guys. When you are that far ahead the one thing you don’t do is make wholesale changes, because the wheels can come off.
“I take my hat off to the players, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Referee: Llyr Apgeraint Roberts
Titans: Copeland (T), Law (4P, 1D/G).
Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Stephen Hamilton, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill (Jamie Kilbane 62), 2 Dan Baines (Ted Stagg 63), 3 Ben Hooper, 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.) (Adrian Griffiths 35), 5 Barney Maddison, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Talite Vaioleti, 19 Adrian Griffiths, 20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Peter Homan.
Leeds: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Stevie McColl, 13 Iain Thornley, 12 Scott Barrow, 11 Pete Lucock (Jordan Davies 52), 10 Joe Ford, 9 Will Cliff (Robbie Shaw 60), 1 Sam Lockwood (Mo Mustafa 55), 2 Andy Titterrell (Phil Nilsen 55), 3 Halani Aulika (David Young 71), 4 Tom Denton (Richard Beck 40), 5 Dan Hemingway (Danny Paul 60), 6 Ed Williamson, 7 Jacob Rowan, 8 Ryan Burrows.
Replacements: 16 Phil Nilsen, 17 Mo Mustafa, 18 David Young, 19 Richard Beck, 20 Danny Paul, 21 Robbie Shaw, 22 Jordan Davies.