Rotherham returned to winning ways as they showed tremendous character to seal a dramatic 32-27 bonus point win over Sale FC at a bright and sunny Clifton Lane.
Having led for much of an entertaining contest, in which both sides endeavoured to play attacking rugby; Rotherham found themselves behind with 5 minutes remaining until Ellis Abrahams collected an interception pass to score under the posts.
Alex Dolly converted and then added a penalty in injury time as the Titans registered their first 5-point victory of the season.
The game started in bright sunshine and with a firm surface underfoot conditions were perfect for an entertaining, fast-paced encounter and to be fair, both sides attempted to deliver just that.
Although the visitors nudged themselves ahead after 3 minutes through a Chris Johnson penalty, it was Rotherham who enjoyed the early exchanges as they raced into a 7 point lead inside the first quarter of the game.
Following an Alex Dolly penalty which levelled matters, Titans manoeuvred themselves inside the Sale 22 before the pack bulldozed their way over the line for prop Will Dennis to touch down on debut. Dolly tagged over the extras to give Rotherham a 10-3 lead.
Sale looked energetic and played with tempo as they tried to work themselves back on terms, but Rotherham matched them for energy and repeatedly snuffed out potential danger.
Eventually Titans added to their tally when big second rower Dan Preston-Routledge barged his way over the line with a little help from his pack mates. Dolly’s conversion stretched the Titans advantage to 17-3 just before the break.
As the game entered the sixth minute of stoppage time Titans allowed the visitors an opportunity to get back into the game when having taken the ball back inside their 22, they kicked-out on the full to give Sale a line-out 10 metres from their line.
From the resulting passage of play Sale set-up a driving maul which powered its way towards the line for replacement forward Dan Birchall to dot down. The try was converted by Johnson with the last kick of the half.
Rotherham came out for the second period determined to build on their success of the first half and this they did on 48 minutes when replacement centre Ellis Abrahams charged down on the Sale 22, before popping a pass to Seb Nagle-Taylor, who then showed terrific strength and determination to power his way over next to the sticks. Surprisingly the reliable Dolly missed the conversion to leave his side 22-10 ahead.
With nothing to lose now, the visitors upped their intensity and enjoyed a period of dominance which saw them score two converted tries through prop Adam Aigbokhae and Captain Andrew Hughes; which sandwiched a penalty from Johnson in the space of 17 minutes to give Sale an unexpected 27-22 lead.
As the game drew to a close it appeared as if Rotherham were going to suffer another hard-luck story. However, five minutes from time Rotherham pressed hard inside the Sale 22 which culminated in Ellis Abrahams picking of a pass from Sale’s replacement fly half, Kieran Wilkinson, to race in and score Titans bonus point try. Dolly converted and added a penalty in stoppage time to seal an important victory.
Post-game a delighted Joe Barker explained, “I am really satisfied with the five point win, I think we showed what we have as an attacking team today and we played some good rugby.
“It was good for the fans to see that; we’d been working on that all week, we brought the game plan in on Tuesday and the lads have worked very hard on it this week.
“At times the boys played some outstanding rugby, but we’ve just got to be a bit more consistent now. I think we showed that in the first half, but in the second half we didn’t quite perform to the same level.
“I also think the lads showed a tremendous amount of character to come back at the end in the manner they did. You can’t teach that and I’m proud that the boys have got that inside them and they showed that today.”
Referee: Veryan Boscawen
Yellow Card: None
Titans: Dennis (T), Preston-Routledge (T), Nagle-Taylor (T), Abrahams (T), Dolly (2P, 3C)
Sale FC: Birchall (T), Aigbokhae (T), Hughes (T), Johnson (2P, 2C), Bradley (1C)
Titans: 15 Alex Dolly, 14 Henry Roberts, 13 Harry Dunne (Abrahams 7), 12 Joe Barker, 11 Jamie Cooke, 10 Callum Irvine, 9 Connor Dever, 1 Dan Richardson (Bergmanas 60), 2 Ali Thomson, 3 Will Dennis (Stout 50), 4 Dan Preston-Routledge (Keys 64), 5 Conor Keys (Ure 55), 6 Luis Ball, 7 Zak Poole (Cotterill 60), 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Jack Bergmanas, 17 Rikki Stout, 18 Jamie Ure, 19 Tom Cotterill, 20 Ellis Abrahams.
Sale FC: 15 Jonty Rawcliffe, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Connor Doherty, 12 Jack Moorhouse (Dunne 72), 11 Aaron Reed, 10 Chris Johnson (Wilkinson 60), 9 Matthew Bradley, 1 Adam Aigbokhae, 2 Neil Briggs (Taylor 58), 3 Simon Griffiths, 4 William Davies, 5 Matt Postlethwaite (Priestley-Nangle 64), 6 Andrew Hughes (Capt.) (Postlethwaite 68), 7 Dave Seymour, 8 Tom Ailes (Birchall 37).
Replacements: 16 Dan Birchall, 17 Christian Taylor, 18 Kieran Dunne, 19 Stone Priestley-Nangle, 20 Kieran Wilkinson.