Play-off nightmare as Titans are crushed

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Rotherham Titans 15

Bedford Blues 58

As Rotherham prepare for this Saturday’s South Yorkshire derby against Doncaster in the Championship promotion play-offs, they must avoid the mistakes which resulted in this thrashing by eight tries to two at Clifton Lane.

Bedford are a decent side and may well reach the Championship final, but even they were surprised by the margin of their win.

The manner in which Rotherham let in six tries during a second half collapse was alarming, and any repeat will confirm some fears that the Titans are not good enough to win a game in the promotion play-offs.

That view is too extreme, but when Doncaster take on Rotherham for the second time this season in a Championship game at Castle Park, they will be fully aware of the weaknesses, especially in defence, that enabled Bedford to score so freely and so quickly.

Sadly, the Titans go into Saturday’s match without one of their most influential forwards, flanker Sam Dickinson, who broke an arm in the seventh minute.

Dickinson was taken to hospital by ambulance and will take no further part in the remaining five games Rotherham face in the play-offs.

Whether the recent instability at the club caused by the contract dispute between coach Andre Bester and the former skipper Joe Bedford, which has led to the player’s decision to leave at the end of the season, was a contributory factor to this heavy defeat, it is hard to say.

However, the atmosphere has been unpleasant, but now senior officials are concentrating on the future, not least recruitment for next season.

Rotherham fans are particularly keen to know if major players, such as Dickinson, Ryan Burrows and Juan Pablo Socino, who scored a fine try against Bedford, are going to accept the contracts they have been offered.

But in the short term, Bester will be demanding a huge improvement at Doncaster so that his team are at least competitive which they were not for the last 30 minutes of the second half.

Surprisingly, not long after new skipper and scrum half Matt Rhodes had scored Rotherham’s second try on 44 minutes, providing a lead of 15-12, the Titans collapsed, and the decline just got worse and worse.

Bedford smashed Rotherham’s defence repeatedly, scoring tries on 53, 69,70,75,79 and 82 minutes.

So from a genuinely competitive position, Rotherham fell apart, and as Bedford’s coach, Mike Rayer, pointed out, his team’s win, at least by so many points, was a shock.

“Not many teams score 50 points at Rotherham, so it was a surprising result. It was 15-15 after 50 minutes and it was a tight game.

“But then we started to get some ball, pushed up the tempo and scored some lovely tries.

“We knew Rotherham had not played for three weeks, so we felt they would be rusty.”

As the South Yorkshire derby approaches, Rotherham’s supporters will be hoping that not only is there a massive team improvement, but also that flanker Sean Dougall, who played outstandingly well against Bedford, can produce another top class individual performance.

Rotherham Titans: Hodgson, Swatkins, Hepworth, Godfrey, Hampsey, Socino, Rhodes, Harris, Baines, O’Donnell, McGowan, Smidt, Dickinson, Dougall, Burrows. Reps: George, Kilbane, Welding, Loney, Kettle, Bedford, Hunt.

Tries: Socino, Rhodes.Conversion:Socino.Penalty: Socino.

Bedford Blues: Pritchard, Schmidt, Bedford, Vass, Dodge, Dorrian, Chudley, Ovens, Richmond, Seal, Howard, Rae, Gillanders, Lewitt, Tupai.

Tries(8): Schmidt 2, Thrower (rep) 2, Tupai, Richmond, Lewitt, Clark (rep).

Conversions: Pritchard 4.Dorrian 2. Penalties: Pritchard 2.

Referee: Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts.