Rotherham Titans 20
Doncaster Knights 42
The result of this fourth South Yorkshire derby in the Championship this season has far wider consequences other than local bragging rights.
Doncaster’s win by six tries to three at Clifton Lane has given the Knights an excellent chance of going through to the semi finals of the promotion play-offs, but before those giddy heights are reached, Doncaster must help themselves by beating Cornish Pirates at Castle Park this Saturday.
Nothing, of course, is guaranteed in the race to join Pirates in the semis, but Doncaster’s hopes were boosted by earning a maximum of five points against Rotherham who now play the Knights’ rivals for a place in the last four, Bedford, at Goldington Road, also this Saturday.
Considering Rotherham’s weak form in the promotion play-offs, five successive defeats, it is highly improbable, bearing in mind the importance of the game, that Bedford will lose at home.
The contest at Clifton Lane, Rotherham’s last home match of the season, was competitive for the most part, and with a lead of 15-14 at the interval, the Titans were the better team, even though they made mistakes in defence for two tries by centre Oli Goss.
Rotherham’s forwards performed powerfully and energetically to score two clever tries on seven and 13 minutes, by hooker Dan Baines and lock Louis McGowan, who also crashed over on 60 minutes to grab his fifth try in the play-offs to suggest that he could have been a regular and active member of the first team squad throughout rather than being exiled to Sedgley Park.
Doncaster fought back impressively in the second half and scored frequently on 43, 46, 55 and 76 minutes to make sure that they beat Rotherham for the third time in the Championship this season.
Forwards Ed Jackson and Steve Boden each scored in the space of three minutes as Rotherham’s defence crumbled, and later backs Douglas Flockhart and Steve McColl counter attacked to extend Doncaster’s lead to 40-20.
As they exploited Rotherham’s errors, the Knights’ accurate goal kicker, fly half Tristan Roberts, converted all of their six tries.
While their authority, enterprise and control were on view in the second half, Knights’ 23-year-old centre, Goss, admitted: “We stuttered in the first half and got a talking to at half time. That fired us up and we then played to our strengths and found the holes.
“Looking ahead, we are confident that we can beat Pirates. A lot of people have talked us down but there is a lot of resilience in the squad and in two games this season against Pirates we’ve been close and unlucky to lose.”
As he plots a competitive future for Rotherham, coach Andre Bester must find decent replacements for scrum half Joe Bedford and fly half/centre Juan Pablo Socino who are leaving to join Newport Gwent Dragons and Nottingham respectively.
“Rotherham is close to my heart,” says Bedford as he played his last game at Clifton Lane. “I’m sad to be leaving and it’s disappointing to lose in your final game, but sometimes the bounce of the ball doesn’t go your way.
“We didn’t have anything to play for other than pride and it will be the same this Saturday at Bedford.”
Rotherham Titans:M.James, Hampsey, Swatkins, S.James, Rhodes, Hodgson, Kilbane, Baines,
O’Donnell, Harris, McGowan, Doneghan, Dougall, Burrows.
Reps: George, Loney, Smidt, Aikman, Worrall, Mcmahon, Du Randt.
Tries: Baines, McGowan 2.
McColl, Flockhart, Goss, Wright, Williams, Roberts, Hampson, Frazier,
Boden, Thiede, Parsons, Craig, Makaafi, Cochrane, Jackson. Reps: Lawrie, Corsar, Rowan, Faviriaz, Devlin, Gates, Briers.
Tries: Goss, 2, Jackson, Boden, Flockhart, And McColl. n Conversions: Roberts 6.