Rotherham’s five match winning streak came to an end as they crashed to a 22-8 defeat away to Ampthill at a blustery Dillingham Park.
Titans overall performance compared to recent efforts was disappointing and they will look to use this experience as a learning curve when the league recommences in two weeks’ time.
The uniqueness of the set-up at Dillingham Park and the slope of the ground was certainly handled better by the home team. However, had Titans taken some opportunities they created, particularly in the first half, they may well have made it 6 wins in a row.
The defeat leaves Rotherham fifth in the table, 4 points off the summit, but with 20 games remaining in National 1 there’s still everything to play for in this longest of seasons.
The game itself saw Titans make the worst start possible as Ampthill touched down after just 65 seconds through winger Nigel Baker. However, had Rotherham collected a loose ball on the ground from the kick off, it’s unlikely the home side would have scored after one minute.
Nevertheless, Rotherham began to settle into the game and enjoyed periods of territory and possession in the hosts half as they tried to make the most of the slope and strong wind.
Following a powerful drive up to the Ampthill line on 13 minutes it looked as though Roth would open their account; unfortunately for them they lost the ball at the crucial moment 3 metres from goal.
On 19 minutes had the final pass to Henry Roberts been an accurate one, the winger would have strolled in for one of his easiest dot downs of the season.
On 22 minutes had Seb Nagle-Taylor not unluckily spilled the ball forward diving over to score Rotherham would have secured their first points and on 32 minutes had another errant pass out wide not occurred, Titans very well may have touched down there too.
Titans did however get on the board after 34 minutes when Ellis Abrahams knocked over a penalty on the angle from 35 metres. Rotherham had turned down 2 other kicks at goal earlier in the game.
As the half drew to a close Rotherham pressed further looking to add to their total, but a resilient home defence made sure there would be no further score and Titans went in at the break trailing 7-3.
Both teams stayed out on the pitch at half time rather than walking back through the woods to the clubhouse. This new on-the-pitch half time team discussion didn’t hinder Rotherham one jot, as they took the lead 2 minutes into the second period.
Jamie Cooke collected the ball out wide on the right before showing excellent pace and power to run through Ampthill’s defence for a fine try. Abrahams narrowly missed the conversion as the strengthening wind pushed the ball across the face of the sticks.
To be fair however, Rotherham’s opportunities were limited in the second half as the hosts utilised the conditions well. The vastly experienced Ampthill pack trundled around the field to good effect and their backs looked sharp when given the ball; all of which meant Titans had to defend hard for long periods.
On 66 minutes Rotherham’s line was breached when scrum-half Euan McKirdy collected from the back of a maul to snipe round to score next to the posts from 5 metres out. Fly half Josh Sharp added the extras from in front to give the hosts a 14-8 advantage.
Things got worse for Rotherham on 72 minutes when Eru Smith-Wano was shown a yellow card for what the referee said was a no arms tackle. This was Titans second yellow card of the game after Connor Field was shown his on 14 minutes. From the resulting penalty Josh Sharp added the 3 points from 40 metres out to extend his sides lead to 17-8.
As the game went into injury time some sloppy defending by Rotherham allowed Ampthill to run in to score the final points of the game through Josh Sharp, who converted his own try.
Commenting post-match a disappointed Joe Barker explained, “The result is a tough one to take, but ultimately it will do us a world of good. We’ve been on a bit of a roll these last few weeks and sometimes you have to go through some tough results and this is one of those.
“This is now a challenge for us as a group; strong people come out of these situations stronger. You have to have good character to come through these moments and I believe this group has bags of it and there’s no doubt they will bounce back from this.
“I think defensively we were really strong and they gained field position through silly things and some of those things were outside of what we can control, but we still need to handle that.
“However in attack we didn’t get into many phases as we didn’t have the ball too often. Our fitness levels and commitment was outstanding once again and that’s a positive which will stand us in good stead going forwards.”
Referee: George Selwood
Yellow Card: Field & Smith-Wano (Titans)
Titans: Cooke (T), Abrahams (P)
Ampthill: Baker (T), McKirdy (T), Sharp (T, P, 2C)
Titans: 15 Callum Irvine, 14 Henry Roberts, 13 Jamie Cooke, 12 Ellis Abrahams, 11 Connor Field, 10 Joe Barker, 9 Connor Dever (Dolly 50), 1 Dan Richardson, 2 Ali Thomson (Bergmanas 70), 3 Rikki Stout (Dennis 39), 4 Tom Cotterill (Keys 53), 5 Jamie Ure, 6 Luis Ball (Smith-Wano 50), 7 Zak Poole, 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Jack Bergmanas, 17 Will Dennis, 18 Conor Keys, 19 Eru Smith-Wano, 20 Alex Dolly.
Ampthill: 15 Ciaran Whyte (Foster 74), 14 Spencer Sutherland, 13 Oli Morris, 12 Sam Hanks, 11 Nigel Baker, 10 Josh Sharp (Whyte 79), 9 Euan McKirdy (Williams 64), 1 Soane Tongauiha (Culverhouse 77), 2 Aleki Lutui (Walliker 40), 3 Matt Collins (Lutui 58), 4 Carl Burgess (Molitika 58), 5 Billy Johnson (Capt.), 6 Syd Blackmore, 7 Joe Bercis (Burgess 70), 8 Ma'ama Molitika (Allman 40).
Replacements: 16 Olly Walliker, 17 Jack Culverhouse, 18 William Allman, 19 Gavin Williams, 20 Will Foster.