Titans hang on - now for the play-offs

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Rotherham Titans 22

Bristol 21

The significance of Rotherham’s narrowest of wins is that they finish seventh in the Championship and can now prepare for their first promotion play-off match next month against Bedford at Clifton Lane.

What is also exciting is that the March 12th game is then followed by yet another South Yorkshire derby against Doncaster Knights who are also in Pool B.

As well as being able to plan for the play-offs, the first of which is in three weeks, Rotherham’s coach Andre Bester can now push ahead with his recruitment plans for next season.

Bester is also keen to try to persuade those players he wishes to keep to stay at Clifton Lane for another season.

Falling into this category will be prop Rob O’Donnell who made a solid come-back in the second half against Bristol.

Tackling ferociously, the former Sale Shark forward has lost none of his physical presence which has been badly missed during his absence for more than four months with a serious ankle injury.

Rotherham’s chances in the play-offs will be boosted by O’Donnell’s appearances as they will be if the Titans can repeat the form they demonstrated in the first half in the last of their 22 league games.

Scoring three top class tries by Ryan Burrows, Peter Swatkins and Jonny Hepworth, Rotherham led 22-0; it seemed that the result was done and dusted.

Bristol recovered spectacularly and showed such aggression and determination after a shocking first half that they almost won deep into injury time.

With converted tries on 59, 71 and 85 minutes, the last by the former Titans three quarter Anthony Elliott; Bristol cut the lead to one point only.

The visitors’ dangerous pack raided Rotherham’s line non-stop in a highly dramatic climax and would have scored a fourth try and, therefore, victory if the Titans had not defended so effectively.

Rotherham also survived the pressure because on 87 minutes, Bristol were penalised...just in the nick of time.

Titans: Hodgson, Swatkins, Hepworth, Godfrey, S.James, Socino, Rhodes, Kilbane, Baines, Quigley, Sandford, Smidt, Dickinson, Dougall, Burrows. Reps: George, O’Donnell, McGowan, Loney, M.James, Bedford, Du Randt.

Tries: Burrows, Swatkins, Hepworth.Conversions: Socino 2.Penalty: Socino.

Bristol: Marsden, Elliott, Adams, Gadd, Watkins, Little, Shaw, Vunipola, Blaney, Thompson, Sambucetti, Barry, Brandling-Thomas, Miller, Mama.

Tries: Watkins, Brandling-Thomas, And Elliott.Conmversions: Davies 3 (rep).

Referee: P.Knowles.

Attendance: 1,237.