Rotherham Titans triumphed at Port Talbot in South Wales where they opened their campaign in the British and Irish Cup with a high quality performance against opposition from the Welsh Premiership.
Titans, behind 13-9 at half time, recovered strongly in the second half as lock forward Dan Sanderson broke through to score a try on 50 minutes following a break by scrum half Charlie Mulchrone, who made an impressive Rotherham debut.
Fly half James McKinney was also in top form with his goal kicking as the Ulsterman put over six penalties on 21,25,32,45,51 and 53 minutes.
McKinney also converted the try by Sanderson, so the young Irish fly half finished with a match winning contribution of 20 points.
Rotherham coach Andre Bester was highly satisfied with the debuts of the Mulchrone brothers, Charlie and Fergus, and with the first appearances of new signings Nile Dacres and Joe Ellyatt in the pack.
“I thought our front row of Denman, Bester and Gadd was outstanding. They forced Aberavon to give away seven penalties.
“I was most impressed with the way Dacres, who we have signed for a month from Worcester, was so eager and he showed a lot of awareness.
“But what really pleased me was the character the team showed in difficult conditions.
“They had to contend with hail stones and freezing weather and fought back strongly in the second half.
“At one point we were behind 13-0 but Rotherham revealed a lot of determination, especially those players who were making their debuts.”
Although Aberavon crossed Rotherham’s line twice on 19 and 63 minutes and outscored the Titans by two tries to one, they made too many mistakes which were punished by lethal goal kicking by McKinney.
Indeed, Rotherham’s fly half missed only one attempt from eight in a near perfect display.
Rotherham return to the British and Irish Cup this coming Saturday at Clifton Lane where their opponents are Plymouth who lost narrowly, 26-22, to the holders Munster.
Plymouth’s competitive performance suggests that Saturday’s game will be close.
Bester is more than likely to stick to the squad which won at Aberavon as there are no major injuries, and he is also keen to see if his new signings make another solid impression before he selects the side to take on Championship leaders, Newcastle Falcons, a week on Friday.
n Rotherham Titans: Whitehead, Styles, F. Mulchrone, Sheridan, Doneghan, McKinney, C. Mulchrone, Gadd, Bester, Denman, Freeman, Sanderson, Dacres, Pitman, Ellyatt. Reps: Blackett, Williams, Kilbane, Davies, Rieder, Kirwan, Stagg.
n Try: Sanderson; conversion: McKinney; penalties: McKinney 6.
n Referee: Charles Sansom.