Rotherham Titans somehow managed to turn what should have been a comfortable win over Cambridge into a disappointing 25-14 defeat at Clifton Lane.
Rotherham went in at the break cruising to a comfortable 11-0 lead and having created a number of opportunities could have put the game to bed inside the first half.
This combined with the fact that the visitors had virtually offered nothing in terms of attacking threat and there wouldn’t have been too many inside the ground at half time willing to back against the home side.
So full credit must be given to Cambridge, who after scoring a breakaway try on 46 minutes, went on to arguably be the better side on the day and Rotherham will have to analyse why that was if they are going to get back on the winning trail.
Titans’ points in the first period came initially midway through the half when Seb Nagle-Taylor collected a pass close to the line from Alex Dolly, before showing tremendous strength and desire to crash over the line for an unconverted try.
Dolly stretched Titans advantage by adding penalties on 30 and 40 minutes respectively to send Rotherham in at the break with a comfortable 11-0 cushion of a lead.
The opening exchanges in the second half followed a similar pattern with Rotherham in the ascendancy. That was until the 46th minutes when just 10 metres out a Titans pass went astray; the loose ball was hacked on by Cambridge centre James Ayrton before full back Mike Ayrton collected and galloped 60 metres to dot down under the posts. Lawrence Rayner added the extras to make it 11-7.
Around the hour mark Alex Dolly sandwiched a penalty in between two from Cambridge replacement Jack Green, to leave Rotherham 14-13 ahead, but the momentum of the game had changed and the visitors started to look dangerous and threatening.
With almost a sense of inevitability Cambridge took the lead 9 minutes from time when following a period of forward pressure the ball was spun out to the backs, with it eventually arriving with winger Sam Yawayawa who touched down in the corner for an unconverted try.
Time was running out as Titans tried to retrieve the advantage they’d enjoyed for much of the match. As 80 minutes approached on the clock Rotherham cleared their lines, but the kick was too long allowing Cambridge plenty of time to run back at the home side.
This they did through winger Nana Asiedu who ran in from 70 metres unopposed to score under the posts to wrap up the match. Green slotted the extras from in front to seal an unexpected win for the visitors.
Commenting on the game a disappointed Joe Barker said, “That was very frustrating. The first half was a good one and we should have taken more points, but we still came in at half time 11-0 up. We even continued to dominate in the opening stages of the second half and at no point did they look like scoring a point, not even from a penalty.
“But as soon as they scored that full length try, I don’t know if our energy went or we stopped doing what we were good at, but we started to give penalties away because we were trying to force things rather than sticking to the system and being consistent.
“The first half worked so well because we stuck to our system and built pressure and pressure brings points; but we stopped doing that and we went back to trying to chase something rather than building it and then we end up making little errors that we didn’t make in the first half.
“Our discipline then killed us and we stopped defending the maul and we didn’t have as much dominance in the scrum and that’s credit to them because they took their chances and they played the referee very well. I think we could have handled him a lot better; he had certain ways of refereeing the game and we have to adapt to the referee and we didn’t do that very well.”
Referee: Daniel Collins
Yellow Card: None
Titans: Nagle-Taylor (T), Dolly (3P)
Cambridge: M Ayrton (T), Yawayawa (T), Asiedu (T), Rayner (1C), Green (C, 2P)
Titans: 15 Sam Allan (Irvine 34) (Dever 65), 14 Henry Roberts, 13 Jamie Cooke, 12 Ellis Abrahams, 11 Connor Field, 10 Joe Barker, 9 Alex Dolly, 1 Dan Richardson (Bergmanas 70), 2 Ali Thomson, 3 Will Dennis (Stout 66), 4 Conor Keys (Ball 57), 5 Jamie Ure, 6 Tom Cotterill, 7 Zak Poole, 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Jack Bergmanas, 17 Rikki Stout, 18 Luis Ball, 19 Connor Dever, 20 Callum Irvine.
Cambridge: 15 Mike Ayrton (Capt.), 14 Nana Asiedu, 13 James Ayrton, 12 Matt Hema (Rayner 73), 11 Sam Yawayawa, 10 Lawrence Rayner (Green 55), 9 Kieran Duffin, 1 Henry Peck (Ibrahim 24) (Peck 72), 2 Alex Rayment (Ruddock 58), 3 Jack Higgins, 4 Gillan Benoy, 5 George Bretag-Norris, 6 Jake McCloud, 7 Keifer Laxton (Rawlings 52), 8 Stephen Hipwell (Conquest 55).
Replacements: 16 Cameron Ruddock, 17 Ben Ibrahim, 18 Rob Conquest, 19 Louis Rawlings, 20 Jack Green.