Rotherham’s new coach Justin Burnell was a relieved and happy man as his first match in charge produced a morale-boosting victory by seven tries to one.
With six vital league games in the Championship coming up, including the visit by Bedford on Saturday, this win at |Clifton Lane, following 10 successive defeats, was so important as the Welshman begins his campaign to avoid relegation.
The Titans’ pack, after a weak start in this re-arranged British and Irish Cup tie, delivered a fighting display which encouraged the new boss who was satisfied with the quality of the tries-two by flanker Tom Calladine and one each for forwards George Oram, Josh Redfern and Will Ryan, and backs Michael Keating and Will Owen.
The convincing victory was marred by injuries to half backs Dan White (leg) and James McKinney (shoulder) which may affect their availability for the Bedford match.
McKinney’s role in the No 10 shirt was taken over confidently by the talented Will Goodwin who also kicked five conversions as Rotherham’s grip on the contest tightened enabling them to lead 35-7 by 61 minutes.
Burnell was delighted with the result but pointed out where improvements must take place:
“The rest of our Championship games are very tough, so we have to transfer this performance into the next two games. We need to work on our line out and we have to maintain pressure to play in the right areas.
“ We must keep hold of the ball and you can’t afford to turn it over in the Championship which is a war of attrition. We conceded a try from a driving maul having given away two penalties, but if we had kept our discipline, we wouldn’t have been in the corner.
“ To score seven tries was a nice way to start and it was great to see a smile on the players’ faces. The support was very vocal from the fans who have had a tough time.
“What really impressed me was the major part played by the bench players who were fantastic - lads like Toby Williams, Jack Preece and Lewis Thiede.
“From what I’ve seen in training, there is a lot of quality here and I’m impressed with the players’ attitude. If we’re being realistic, we’ve got to be looking at 12 points from the remaining Championship games, but I think that 10 points will keep us up.
“I’m no different to the players. I want to coach in the Championship next season and I’m excited to have joined a club like Rotherham.”
Rotherham’s chances of beating Bedford at Clifton Lane on Saturday should be strengthened by the expected return of two top forwards from injury-skipper Tom Holmes and Barney Maddison.
Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Keating, J.Davies, Owen, Goodwin, McKinney, White, Hislop, Harris, Tampin, Salmon, Oram, Ryan, Calladine, Redfern. Replacements: C.Maddison, Williams, Thiede, Preece, Hayes, A.Davies, Carter.
Tries: Calladine 2, Keating, Owen, Oram, Redfern, Ryan.
Conversions: Goodwin 5.
Referee: Jack Makepeace.