As Rotherham look ahead to their biggest home match of the Championship season, the Boxing Day clash with South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Knights, they’ll be hoping that the new, on-loan players from Aviva Premiership clubs will be available.
The six recruits, who made a good impression during the defeat by a strong Munster team in the British and Irish Cup at Clifton Lane, are: forwards Santi Socino(Newcastle Falcons),Lewis Ludlam(Northampton Saints) and Wilhelm van der Sluys from Worcester Warriors, and backs Juan-Pablo Estelles(Northampton), Oli Bryant(Leicester Tigers) and Tom Collins also from Northampton.
Two of Rotherham’s three tries, as they lost by five tries to three during an entertaining match, were scored by the new signings: hooker Socino and his fellow Argentinean, centre Estelles, whose last competitive game was against England in the recent autumn Test.
Estelles quickly showed his international class as he shot through Munster’s defence on 21 minutes, sending would-be tacklers one way and then, in a flash, changing direction to touch down.
Socino, watched by his brother Juan Pablo who played with such distinction for Rotherham before joining Newcastle Falcons, came on at half time to improve the throwing in at the line out which had been a shambles in the first half as the Titans repeatedly lost their own ball and ruined scoring positions.
The younger Socino has been playing in National One for Darlington Mowden Park, but on this evidence he’d be far better playing in the Championship, and the manner in which he seized his try scoring chance in the 48th minute demonstrated both hunger and skill.
As Rotherham recovered from a poor start to 21-17, South African flanker Van der Sluys also put in a solid performance as did Ludlam his fellow flanker.
The Titans’ backs looked sharp and in addition to Estelles, Bryant and Collins also indicated why coach Justin Burnell is so keen to have them available again.
And that’s the issue: Championship clubs never know how permanent these on-loan deals are and never know when Premiership players will be recalled, so it makes preparation for important league games difficult.
“The new boys gave us 100 per cent, their application was fantastic and they made an excellent contribution,” explained Rhys Edwards, Rotherham’s skills coach.
“We were lucky to have some very talented players available and they gave everything to the cause. I was disappointed that we weren’t clinical enough and the missed line outs are not acceptable at this level.
“We created scoring opportunities but didn’t take them,” Edwards added.
Munster, fielding four Ireland internationals and another seven players who had played in the Pro12 league, did, though, show how chances should be taken: scoring three tries in the first half and then another two.
The return game is this Sunday at Ennis in County Clare but it’s too soon to say if full back Will Goodwin, who suffered another foot injury, will play.
Rotherham Titans: Goodwin, Tai, Estelles, Bryant, Collins, Ryan, Dudman, Hutchinson, Graham, Herriott, Salmon, Hicks, Van der Sluys, Ludlam, Grange. Replacements: Socino, Tom Williams, Ian Williams, Normandale, MacDonald, Walsh, Kelly.
Scorers: Tries: Estelles, Socino, penalty.Converions: Ryan 3. Penalty: Ryan.