Rugby Union: Rotherham Titans 37 Aberavon 13

Alistair Birch makes progress for Rotherham against Aberavon
Alistair Birch makes progress for Rotherham against Aberavon
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Belfast on Friday is Rotherham’s next stop on their campaign in the British and Irish Cup which has started so promisingly.

Victories over Yorkshire Carnegie and Aberavon - who were well beaten by six tries to one at Clifton Lane - leaves Rotherham top of Pool 2 on nine points.

They should be highly confident of overcoming Ulster Ravens, but after the Belfast club surprisingly lost both their opening cup ties Titans will expect them to be much more competitive.

Coach Lee Blackett, who was impressed and delighted with the displays of several squad players given a start against the Welsh, is expected to retain a similar party for the trip to Northern Ireland.

The Titans, quarter finalists last season, are ambitious to make further progress in this campaign and once the qualifying stages are finished in December they hope to have not only won their group but also to have taken their Cup form into the Championship.

Before the Welsh Premiership club were thrashed in the second half as Rotherham scored five tries, they struggled to deliver an effective game plan.

Possession did not produce tries except one before half time(8-6) by South African scrum half Zylon McGaffin who seized his opportunity on debut.

Aberavon, helping Rotherham by having three players yellow carded, were nevertheless competitive and at 15-13 following a converted try, a Titans win was by no means certain.

The Welsh defended solidly and after prop Toby Williams had crashed over for Rotherham’s second soon after the restart, Aberavon prevented the Titans from scoring another try for more than 20 minutes.

However, the remainder of the second half belonged to Rotherham who shook off their sluggishness to smash their opponents whose line was crossed on 63, 70, 75 and 87 minutes.

Tries by forwards Ali Birch and Tom Holmes and backs Lloyd Hayes, a thrilling effort from more than 30 metres, and Tom Barrett provide a lead of more than 30 points taking the Titans to the summit of their group.

Barrett’s try was warmly received by Rotherham’s fans who felt sorry for the fly half as he had suffered an uncomfortable afternoon, not least with his goal kicking: Barrett missed three conversions and two penalties.

“We must now build on this performance in Belfast on Friday,” explained Blackett.

“I am really delighted at how quick we were and happy too with McGaffin who’s a live wire and dangerous. I was also impressed with scrum half James Mitchell from Sale Sharks when he came on. He is on a short term loan and will be available fo Friday.

Rotherham Titans: Hayes, Keating, Gill, Davies, Dowsett, Barrett, McGaffin,Williams, Matthews, Macklin, Parker, Holmes, Argyle, Birch, Ryan. Replacements: Preece, Gadd, Tampin, Parkinson, Rieder, Mitchell, Roberts.

Tries: McGaffin, Williams, Birch, Holmes, Hayes, Barrett.

Conversions: Barrett 2.Penalty: Barrett.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland).