If Rotherham’s performance in this Saturday’s South Yorkshire derby at Doncaster comes anywhere near to the standard which frightened Newcastle at Clifton Lane then rugby fans in the region are in for a memorable game.
The top quality rugby which Rotherham produced in the last 10 minutes of the first half and for most of the second made you wonder why they are not challenging for promotion.
To score three tries against the leaders, set for a return to the Premiership, on a run of 16 successive wins and with a budget of more than £3m, is special, and Rotherham were unlucky not to earn a point.
Titans won the second half by 10-6, but having conceded four tries in the opening 30 minutes which handed Newcastle a lead of 28-0, a Rotherham win was improbable.
With Newcastle controlling the ball and attacking relentlessly, Titans looked set for a humiliating home defeat.
However, they stayed calm, showed great character and self-belief and with their pack starting to win possession, they took the game to Falcons.
With flanker Latu Makaafi now back on following an earlier yellow card - Newcastle scored 14 points during his absence - Rotherham’s forwards excelled.
Their first promising raid on the Newcastle line set up the first try on 37 minutes for winger Mike Doneghan.
Second row Dan Sanderson charged to the posts and then passed skilfully to Doneghan outside him who managed to touch the ball down.
The conversion by Garry Law cut the gap to 28-7, but the excitement had just begun.
In the fifth minute of injury time, Rotherham stole the ball after Newcastle had won a line out. Scrum half Charlie Mulchrone then dashed 70 metres to the Newcastle line to score a thrilling try meaning that Newcastle’s lead was reduced further to 28-12.
Rotherham’s exemplary play for the next 35 minutes was outstanding. At one point Newcastle did not touch the ball for 10 minutes. On 44 minutes Sanderson burst over for Rotherham’s third try and with Law converting they were now only 28-19 behind.
Newcastle’s unbeaten run of 16 successive league wins was at risk and hopes of a major shock rose when Law’s 70th minute penalty put Rotherham just six points adrift at 28-22.
The Falcons, though, did not panic and made sure of victory thanks to two late penalties by fly half Joel Hodgson.
Titans’ coach Alex Codling was delighted with his team’s commitment: “We were outstanding after the yellow card. Most teams who were 28-0 would have got a hiding, but we attacked and showed character. “We were incredible. This team gives you everything and undoubtedly we deserved a bonus point..”
Rotherham Titans: Law, Doneghan, Sheridan, Nonu, Wilson, Mckinney, Mulchrone, Kilbane, Stagg, Denman, Thomas, Sanderson, Makaafi, Kirwan, Freeman. Replacements: Saunders, Gadd, Davies, Pearce, Rieder, Blackett, Williams.
Tries: Doneghan, Mulchrone, Sanderson. Conversions: Law 2. Penalty: Law.