After successive defeats by Leinster and Plymouth, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Rotherham Titans’ coach, Lee Blackett, made changes for Saturday’s Championship home game against Jersey.
Titans are now eight points adrift of Nottingham in fourth place, and if Rotherham are to repeat last season’s effort of earning a place in the top four, they can’t afford to lose. Any repeat of the weaknesses on view during the loss at Plymouth (22-8), Rotherham will be defeated again which is why they must not give penalties away in their own half.
If they are careless and undisciplined, Jersey will kick for the line out on the Titans’ line, create a driving maul and hope to score-just as Plymouth did, three times.
The Channel Islanders arrive at Clifton Lane in good form. Consecutive victories in the Championship against Doncaster, beaten 26-19 at Castle Park, and Nottingham, overcome 12-10 in Jersey, illustrate the scale of the challenge Rotherham face. Coached by Harvey Biljon and Steve Boden, the ex-Doncaster forward, Jersey are highly competitive-more so than their record of only four wins in 13 league games suggests.
A major figure is fly half Jon Bentley, an experienced New Zealander, who made a big impact during his career at Cornish Pirates. Centre Drew Locke, who also enjoyed a distinguished spell at Pirates, will pose a threat too in a Jersey team whose forwards stood up well in a fierce contest last month against Bristol.
The massive spenders won a close game by only 10 points.
Similarly, Jersey put up a determined fight against the other promotion favourites, Worcester, at Sixways in November when they lost by only 32-29.
If Rotherham are currently short of confidence, surely it can be restored if they can recapture the form they revealed in the second half against Jersey in the first Championship meeting in late September.
Then, the Titans won 32-29 and left the Channel Islands with a losing bonus point, having scored four tries.
The outstanding individual was Ulster fly half James McKinney who produced a match winning display: a try, two conversions, a penalty and a drop goal.
Assuming McKinney plays, a repeat performance would be timely and just what Rotherham need to get their season back on track.