Titans bid to shock Pirates in Penzance

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The biggest challenge of the lot: that is how Championship clubs, such as Rotherham Titans, describe what it is like playing Cornish Pirates in front of a passionate crowd at the Mennaye Field Stadium in Penzance.

It is not just the round trip of several hundred miles which teams find so tiring, but once players take on the Pirates, they are also fighting against all of Cornwall where rugby union is the expression of the county’s personality.

So this Sunday, in their third promotion play-off, Rotherham will achieve a miracle if they were to beat the Pirates, but after playing so well to defeat Leeds on Sunday, the Titans could not be in a better shape mentally.

Pirates, by contrast, second in Pool B on five points, have not started their campaign successfully: drawing at home to Leeds and then losing by a point at Bedford 26-25.

Rotherham travel to Penzance without the services of injured captain and second row forward Sam Dickinson who broke his arm, again, against Leeds.

Coach Andre Bester has to decide whether Dickinson’s place is to be taken by Adrian Griffiths, who is good in the line-out, or Scottish forward Neale Patrick.

Other than finding a replacement for Dickinson, the starting 15 will be the same which triumphed at Headingley.

One issue is clear: Rotherham’s defence and tackling will have to be just as sharp if not tougher than was seen at Leeds.

This is because the Pirates’ backs are highly dangerous: they scored 46 tries in 22 Championship matches before the play-offs, and in half backs Gavin Cattle and Ceiron Thomas, they possess two experienced players who know how to run a game.

As well as top class defending, Rotherham will also need to be disciplined.

If not and they give away too many kickable penalties, they will lose because Pirates’ full back, Rob Cook, is a deadly match winner.

Rather like Rotherham’s goal kicker, Garry Law, Cook does not miss much, so the Titans must concentrate and not allow him into the game.

As the Pirates’ form and results so far in the play-offs have not matched their expectations, it is not likely that, with home advantage, they will continue to disappoint their fans on Sunday, but now that Rotherham’s confidence is so positive, the Titans just may cause a major upset.

Titans squad: Foden, Hamilton, McCall, Nonu, Monahan, Law, Williams, Cahill, Baines, Hooper, Griffiths or Patrick, Maddison, Copeland, Dougall, Taulava, Stagg, Kirwan, Vaioleti, Rhodes, Homan.