Rotherham’s excellent start to the Championship season - they are third with eight wins from 11 games - has given them every chance of achieving the campaign’s goal- a place in May’s promotion play-offs.
If the Titans are to earn promotion for the third time, they must continue the consistency shown in the first half of the Championship season.
Coach Lee Blackett says: “It’s great to be in the top four, but if we don’t finish there in April, we haven’t done the job.”
In my opinion, this is THE outstanding Rotherham squad in the last decade; the team have the best chance of being promoted of any Rotherham side for years. Competition, though, is fierce. Bristol, London Welsh, Leeds, London Scottish and possibly Cornish Pirates- visitors on Saturday- are also contenders. Rotherham’s win on Boxing Day against Bedford,showed the all-round strength of the team.
Three of Blackett’s signings stood out: flanker Jack Preece, centre Juan Pablo Socino, the Championship’s leading scorer on 170 pts and Irish winger Michael Keating, recruited from Doncaster.
“When you are playing open rugby and scoring lots of tries, it’s hard not to enjoy it” says Keating.
“The team spirit is brilliant. Our aim is to make the top four. We have put ourselves in a good position and we have to carry on.
“As long as we are in the mix for the play-offs, we’ll do well. Saturday’s game is a big fixture. The Pirates are in the clutch of clubs at the top. When I was at Doncaster, we didn’t do well against them, they are always a tough side.” Looking ahead, the consecutive return clashes against London Welsh,London Scottish in February, followed by Bristol at Clifton Lane on March 1, may well determine Rotherham’s season.
Scottish, improving, have already been beaten and while Rotherham lost narrowly to London Welsh and Bristol, if the Titans play to their full potential, there’s no reason why these reverses can’t be rectified in a league where the standards are even between the principal clubs.
That description also includes Leeds, now fourth, whose ambitions to return to the Premiership, are alive and serious.
So,the rematch at Clifton Lane in April is yet another huge contest and one where Rotherham, mediocre in the first half at Headingley in November, must perform to gain revenge for the 19-10 defeat.
Meanwhile, Rotherham are also making solid progress in the British and Irish Cup,a competition Blackett is taking seriously.
Top of Pool 3 on 13 points with three wins, Rotherham are on course for the quarter-finals provided they beat Connacht at Clifton Lane in a fortnight and then Bedford,away,the following Saturday.