Titans win cup thriller

Titans Jack Preece in an impressive performance against Bedford
Titans Jack Preece in an impressive performance against Bedford
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Inspired by an outstanding performance from flanker Jack Preece, Rotherham opened their campaign in the British and Irish Cup with the narrowest of wins at Clifton Lane against Bedford who failed to take their scoring opportunities in the toughest of contests.

The Titans did not to score a try for this first time this season and relied on the goal kicking of centre Juan Pablo Socino, who put over four penalties, two in each half, to confirm a victory against Championship opponents.

This was an important success for Rotherham considering the league defeat against London Welsh the week before, and the display of the pack, in which Preece, Ben Sowery and Dan Sanderson stood out, also boosted morale as the squad begin planning for this Saturday’s clash in Ireland against Connacht at Galway.

Rotherham should be confident of another win in the B and I Cup because Connacht were thrashed 76-14 by Llanelli, who scored 11 tries.

However, with the advantage of playing at home, Rotherham’s coach Lee Blackett is not expecting the Irish side to be easy opposition in the Titans’ second game in Pool Three.

In the pouring rain, both sides found handling difficult and Rotherham had to adjust to playing in conditions which do not suit their style.

They coped satisfactorily, however, and Blackett was pleased with the efforts of a new front row, Michael Dias, Sowery and Mark Tampin, and the displays of scrum half Dan White and forward replacements Toby Freeman, Alex Rieder and Toby Williams.

Bedford took an 11-9 lead on almost 60 minutes with a drop goal which followed a try and a penalty, but almost immediately Socino struck back with his fourth penalty to put Rotherham ahead by only one point.

In the 20 or so minutes remaining, the Titans stayed calm, defended effectively and prevented Bedford creating chances which could have snatched victory.

“The game plan was to put pressure on Bedford and we managed the game correctly. The scrum worked really well for us and the new boys who came in took their chances,” said Socino.

“After the disappointing result of last weekend, the target was to win which we did. We are taking this competition seriously and will work hard in training this week to make sure we win in Ireland.”

Blackett, who will be without the injured forward Alfie To’oala for another two weeks, was delighted with the form of back row forward Preece.

He said: “The amount of turn-over ball he won was incredible. Jack was outstanding.”

Rotherham Titans: Keating, Broadley, Roberts, Socino, Wilson, Murphy, White, Dias, Sowery, Tampin, Maddison, Sanderson, Birch, Preece, Pearce. Replacements: Cruse, Williams, Stout, Freeman, Rieder, Mulchrone, Hayes.

Scorer: Socino (4 penalties).

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales).