A thrilling try by former Sheffield Tigers winger Jamie Broadley boosted Rotherham’s chance of creating a major shock when the second leg of the promotion play-offs this Saturday.
Broadley’s try in the fifth minute of injury time at the Memorial Stadium means that the Titans are only three points behind the promotion favourites going in to the return match at Abbeydale.
With a home advantage and roared on by a big crowd in Sheffield, the biggest rugby union game in the city for decades, Rotherham have given themselves a golden opportunity of reaching the play-off final.
Of course, they still have to play to the same level if they are to beat Bristol for the first time this season-the West country side having beaten Rotherham four times in this campaign.
But, as Rotherham showed in a performance of guts, character, and total commitment from start to finish, they have the ability to shock the Championship’s biggest spenders who will feel they have failed to enter the second leg without a convincing lead.
Rotherham, though, must show at Abbeydale much greater self-control which gave away 17 needless points to Bristol who cashed in on the two yellow cards received by forwards Josh Thomas-Brown and Ed Williamson.
With Rotherham down to 14 men at different stages of an entertaining match, attended by a crowd of almost 6,000,Bristol scored 10 points during Thomas-Brown’s absence and then another seven while Williamson was in the sin bin.
This fighting display confirmed the growing credibility of Rotherham as a team to be feared by the best, and if they can learn to take their chances, four were missed including an unfortunate error by forward Tom Homes, who dropped the ball while about to score on 60 minutes, they can deliver a massive upset this Saturday.
Titans will also require yet another accurate goal kicking display from Juan Pablo Socino, who knocked over three outstanding penalties to put Rotherham deservedly ahead 9-0 at the interval.
Bristol’s three tries when Rotherham were down to 14 players only had given them a 17-9 lead as the game went into added time.
Rotherham launched an attack towards the Bristol line and spotting gaps in their defence, replacement centre Jordan Davies put through an intelligent grubber kick towards Broadley who gathered instantly to touch down.
His memorable score was thoroughly deserved and completed a team performance which typified the spirit and never-say-die attitude that surrounds the squad.
“We might be disappointed that we didn’t finish off more chances, but to come away only three points behind is a result that we would have taken at the start.
“We finished the stronger and we are very much still in the game and if we have a good week’s training and the boys look after themselves, we have every chance of overturning Bristol.
“But we have to be hard on ourselves and put these games away when we create opportunities,” said Broadley.
* Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Broadley, Gill, Roberts, Keating, Socino, Mulchrone, Hislop, Cruse, Quigley, Holmes, Thomas-Brown, Rieder, Preece, To’oala. Replacements: Morris, Williams, Tampin, Williamson, Davies, White, Murphy.
Try: Broadley; penalties: Socino 3.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth.