Titans regular season a great success
Ahead of the Titans biggest game for over a decade against Bristol in the Championship semi final, now is the time to reflect on what has been a tremendous regular season effort from the Clifton Lane men.
So, put your hands up if you expected Titans to finish in the top four of this seasons Championship! One would imagine the task of the hand count wouldn’t take too long to complete and that’s not being negative. It’s just that the quality of the teams competing in the Greene King IPA Championship is at an all time high and the number of Championship players moving up to the top table of English rugby, grows year on year, further demonstrating the quality in the division.
Following a promising pre-season under new head coach Lee Blackett, it was apparent the club had recruited some fine players, but how good they would be, would only be confirmed once the rigours of Championship rugby took hold. And what a season it’s turned out to be!
Particular highlights of the Titans most successful 12-team Championship season were victories away from home. No one there will forget in a hurry Rotherham’s first ever away victory (24-23) over close league rivals London Scottish on a Friday evening in late October. Neither will the fans that travelled to the island of Jersey forget quickly another first time away victory.
Rare away successes over Plymouth Albion, Nottingham Rugby and Cornish Pirates must also be marked down as crucial results in enabling the Titans to secure a Championship play-off spot for the first time. Particularly so at Cornish Pirates, where yet another stunning second half display saw Rotherham score 33 unanswered points, as they achieved just their second victory in Cornwall and their first at The Mennaye!
Performances at Clifton Lane were equally as impressive and memorable. The 79-9 win over new boys Ealing Trailfinders was a fantastic start to the home campaign, with Titans running in ten tries. The busy Boxing Day fixture against Bedford Blues saw a truly remarkable second half effort as the home side ran in 26 unanswered points. Likewise, the home fixture against Cornish Pirates saw Titans trail 24-3 inside the first half hour. Yet again however, another spirited comeback saw Rotherham ultimately prevail 35-30 in a tense, entertaining encounter.
Entertainment is probably the key word in summing up Titans regular season campaign. The season hasn’t just been about wining games, but the manner of which they have has thrilled fans not just at Clifton Lane, but at all the grounds Rotherham have visited this term.
A statistical reflection shows Titans have achieved their best ever RFU Championship season, as they attained their most ever home and away victories, scored their most points in a campaign and ended the season in fourth spot having accumulated a massive 80 points.
And let’s not forget the British & Irish Cup. The club stated early on that their objective was to qualify out of the pool stages for the first time. This target was met with some stunning rugby against three other sides intent on qualification themselves. The group which also contained Bedford Blues, Connacht Eagles and Llanelli RFC was described as the ‘Group of Death’ such was the quality of the sides in Pool 3.
Had it not been for a freak 62 metre penalty with the last kick of the match away to Connacht Eagles in the pool stages, Titans would have secured a home quarter final tie and would have been favourites for a semi final berth. However, their performance away to Bristol in the knock-out stages was a terrific one, which Rotherham led with six minutes remaining. Unfortunately for them they ran out of bodies as the match wore on and had five front row players in the pack at the end. Ultimately meaning their search for Cup glory came up agonisingly short this year.
Titans Lee Blackett, although fully focused on preparing his side for the massive Bristol challenge, as he tries to steer Titans into their first Championship final, took a moment out to reflect on the season to date. He explained, “I think we’ve had a good year so far, but we want to make it a great year! The players that are leaving at the end of the year will leave the club in a better place than when they came and credit to them for that. To achieve top four with so much change within the club, both in terms of back room staff through to player recruitment has been an outstanding effort.
“I have to give a big thanks to the Directors for allowing me the team that I wanted on and off the field. We’ve change the style of our game and we’ve change the type of personnel that this club was looking for, in that we have a bit more pace about us now. Thankfully the Directors have backed me all the way and I am very grateful for that support.
“I think the biggest thing that has pleased me this year is to go away from home and win on nine different occasions. That’s pretty special when you consider this club is used to winning two or three away games a year. And we’ve actually scored more points away from Clifton Lane, which in itself is a remarkable achievement.
“I think we’ve had a number of crucial games this year, but for me London Scottish away was a massive result for us. I loved Nottingham away; I think that was the best we’ve played all year. Everything we did came off and we played some outstanding rugby on the day.
“There were other special results; we achieved a first-ever win at Jersey, we won at Bedford for the first time in a while, we won at Plymouth for the first time in years and we won at Pirates for the first time in ages. So there’s been a lot of first this year and you have to give credit to this bunch of boys that we have here.
“But, and there is a big but, it’s been a good year, but let’s make it a great year. Let’s make it a special year that the Rotherham fans will remember for a very long time. Let them remember the players who are leaving who have contributed enormously, players like Charlie Mulchrone, Dan Sanderson, Ben Sowrey, Juan Pablo Socino and Laurence Pearce.”
Lee finishes with a personal plea to the Titans supporters, “So let’s go for something special which will make you the fans remember this side for a long time. We’ve got this far, now we need every bit of help possible and that means please turn out in your droves away at Bristol, I know it’s on TV and I know times are tough, but if you can afford it we would love you to go down there, because we really, really need your support and then it’s the big one back at home.”