As Rotherham begin preparing today for their second pre-season friendly at Newcastle Falcons on Saturday, coach Lee Blackett has warned his players they must learn harsh lessons from their narrow defeat by Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens.
Rotherham lost by only 33-28 and scored four excellent tries by wingers Curtis Wilson and Jamie Broadley, hooker Tom Cruse and centre Joel Gill.
And with new fly half James McKinney kicking four conversions, Rotherham at one stage were in control and led 21-12 at half time and then by 28-19, but Northampton fought back late in the second half once the Titans were down to 14 players following a yellow card against forward Alex Rieder on 67 minutes.
The Premiership club scored 14 points in five minutes to seize a win which should have been Rotherham’s considering they’d earlier been dominant for large periods.
“Our finishing was second to none but I’m frustrated because we should have come away with a victory,” explained Blackett.
“We must learn to finish games off and to close them down. We must do that if we want to end up in the top half of the Championship.”
“ It’s also essential to maintain discipline, particularly when you are in the lead. To concede two tries when you are reduced to 14 men is not sensible.
“I am satisfied though with our work-rate and we took our scoring opportunities well. I thought our defence was good and when Northampton put us under a lot of pressure, we held out.
“The tries by Cruse and Broadley showed outstanding finishing and when we went ahead, we were doing really well.
“But as against Bristol in the play-offs last season, indiscipline cost us and with the Championship campaign starting shortly, you can’t do that, so we must learn.
“Look, we put our bodies on the line and the new players, like McKinney and scrum half Zylon McGaffin, did well and considering we had only 30 per cent possession against a good, young Northampton side, Rotherham put up a solid team performance.”
Blackett is likely to pick a smaller squad for Saturday’s match at Kingston Park against Newcastle Falcons. Ulster prop Adam Macklin, who didn’t play at Northampton, will be included for Rotherham’s second game against a Premiership club.
The Titans’ last pre-season game before the Championship programme begins at London Scottish in three weeks is against Blaydon a week on Saturday at a venue still to be confirmed.