Rotherham Titans staged a great fightback from 24-3 down to beat Cornish Pirates 35-30 at Clifton Lane and move up to second place in the Championship.
And as coach Lee Blackett analyses the good and the bad of this team’s extraordinary performance he will be paying particular attention to the defence.
Any repeat of the opening 25 minutes or so in future Championship games, in which they let in three converted tries and were losing 24-3, and Rotherham’s ambition of reaching the top four will be hard to achieve.
But Titans will make the promotion play-offs if they reproduce on a regular basis the depth of character and team spirit which they revealed to beat Pirates.
Rotherham’s outstanding win put them on 43 points, two behind leaders London Welsh and one point in front of Leeds and Bristol in third and fourth place respectively.
In a remarkable recovery Rotherham fought back to score two tries late in the first half and then added two more in the second, and with Juan Pablo Socino striking three conversions and three penalties, the Titans completed a thrilling victory and earned a maximum five points.
In one of the most exciting matches seen in recent seasons at Clifton Lane, tries by replacement forward Laurence Pearce and centre Jack Roberts inspired the revival which cut the Pirates’ lead to 24-15 at the interval.
But the best was still to come. Two more tries on 43 and 50 minutes by hooker Ben Sowrey, like Pearce superb throughout, and winger Michael Keating, followed by penalties on 71 and 74 minutes from Socino, seized an astonishing win that few expected.
“We still have plenty to work on and you can’t afford to miss tackles against a high quality side,” was the realistic assessment of coach Blackett.
“We must give credit to our attack and we showed real character more than anything. For the second week running, our bench made a real impact and changed the game.
“With this group of players, you are never out of the match. This is a tight league and if we don’t get over the line in the second half of the Championship season, we won’t finish in the top four.”
As Blackett prepares for consecutive games in the British and Irish Cup and then the league match in Jersey, one of his priorities will be to make sure that Australian fly half Dallan Murphy, who had not played for four games because of injury, improves his defence.
Another item high on his agenda will be to contact Premiership club Newcastle Falcons to inquire when fly half Joel Hodgson will be made available again.
Blackett also needs to know what progress scrum half Charlie Mulchrone,who missed the Pirates game, is making with his injured shoulder.
Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Keating, Roberts, Socino, Wilson, Murphy, White, Hislop, Sowrey, Quigley, Maddison, Thomas, Rieder, Preece,Williamson. Replacements: Cruse,Williams,Tampin,Sanderson,Pearce,Gill,Broadley.
Tries: Pearce, Roberts, Sowrey, Keating; conversions: Socino 3; [enalties: Socino 3.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth.