AN outstanding fight back by Rotherham in an equally outstanding game at Clifton Lane, which may not be equalled in terms of drama and excitement this season, earned the Titans three Championship points, writes Guy Williams.
In a thrilling climax to a match in which both sides deserved much credit for their skill and relentless hard work, Rotherham, almost dead and buried and with time running out, scored two late tries to clinch a draw.
Bedford, leading 35-24 and then 38-21, must be wondering how they managed to draw a contest which appeared to have been won having scored four tries on 13, 42, 57 and 59 minutes.
But Rotherham’s spirit and commitment overcame previous errors which had seen them lose control.
The recovery was launched by skipper and centre Lee Blackett, capitalising on tremendous work by the pack, who emerged from a pile of players to claim a try on 72 minutes.
His score cut the gap to 35-29 and when fly half James McKinney put over his second conversion to add to his four penalties - the Ulsterman finished with 18 points - Rotherham were just four points behind.
However, the tension was to reach higher levels as Bedford also recovered.
The Blues points’ machine, full back James Pritchard then kicked his fourth penalty on 76 minutes which stretched their lead to 38-31.
As the game moved into injury time, Rotherham’s forwards won positions on Bedford’s line from which to score.
The Titans’ scrummaging was superb as it destroyed the Bedford front row.
The referee warned Bedford repeatedly and when they infringed yet again on 84 minutes thanks to the power of the Titans front three of Marshall Gadd, Dan Baines and Simon Gardiner, he awarded Titans a penalty try. Now they were only two points adrift at 38-36, but with a simple conversion in front of the posts, McKinney had the easiest of kicks to achieve a share of the spoils.
His coolly taken conversion produced a 38-38 scoreline, a result for Rotherham that did not appear remotely likely after they almost committed rugby suicide by giving away two tries in two minutes in the second half.
During this bad patch the Titans let in 15 points in only seven minutes as they lost concentration and organisation in defence. Rotherham had led 18-13 after a fine first half performance.
Tries from full back Michael Whitehead and forward Alex Rieder, one of seven new signings in the side, saw them, seemingly, establish a firm grip on the game.
But three tries after the break by Bedford and two conversions and two penalties by Pritchard put the Blues into a match winning position.
As it happened, though, Rotherham’s fierce pack delivered two late tries and with them, the unusual result of a draw in rugby and also the out-of-the ordinary award of three points to each team.
n Titans: Whitehead, Homan, Blackett, Nonu, Sheridan, McKinney, Williams, Kilbane, Baines, Davies, Patrick, Sanderson, Maddison, Kirwan, Rieder. Reps: Stagg, Gardiner, Gadd, Pitman, Makaafi, Law, Gill.
n Tries: Whitehead, Rieder, Blackett (penalty); conversions: McKinney 3; penalties: McKinney 4.