Rotherham Titans made it 3 wins on the trot as they were made to work hard for their 22-20 victory over Bishop’s Stortford at Silver Leys.
Each side scored three tries, with Eru Smith-Wano, Jamie Ure and Seb Nagle-Taylor dotting down for the South Yorkshire side. Scrum half Alex Dolly added 2 conversions and centre Ellis Abrahams knocked over a penalty.
Based on this performance it’s surprising Bishop’s Stortford are not higher-placed in the league and were well worth their losing bonus point, as were Rotherham their win.
Indeed the home side got off to a flyer after just 9 minutes when flanker Dan Elsom finished off a sweeping cross-field move after Bishops created an overlap out wide. Fly half George Cullen impressively added the extras from close to the touchline to give his side a 7-0 lead.
Titans responded with good energy and soon had a try themselves, as on 14 minutes Eru Smith-Wano dotted down from a catch and drive 10 metres from goal. Alex Dolly narrowly missed on the right side with his conversion attempt.
In an entertaining contest back came Bishops immediately from the restart. The ball was worked to full back Nick Hankin who showed terrific pace to dance his way through the Titans defence to score a scintillating try. Surprisingly Cullen missed his conversion as the strong wind pushed his effort onto the left upright leaving the score at 12-5.
Rotherham bounced back again and on the half hour mark levelled the game when Alex Dolly converted another Titans catch and drive, this time finished off by second rower Jamie Ure.
Almost against the run of play Bishops nosed themselves ahead again just 4 minutes later when this time Cullen made no mistake from the tee, after Rotherham were penalised for not rolling away at the breakdown just outside the 22 and in front of the posts.
Rotherham had been the better side throughout and they finally got the scoreboard to recognise this, when two minutes before the break they took the lead for the first time in the match.
Following a period of forward dominance Alex Dolly found number 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor who came into the line at pace to collect from around 30 metres out to barge his way through to score under the posts. Dolly tagged over the extras to make it 19-15 to Rotherham at half time.
The second period saw both sides put in massive shifts, with each team demonstrating great ambition to play rugby and with each team showing great determination in defence. It was this latter quality which impressed meaning the half would be a low-scoring affair.
On 62 minutes Titans extended their advantage 22-15, when centre Ellis Abrahams knocked over a penalty from inside the 22 after Bishops had been penalised for being offside close to their own line when under massive pressure from the Titans pack.
In the main Rotherham continued to boss the game, but they couldn’t put away the home side as they showed tremendous resilience to stay in the contest.
As the game went into injury time Bishops broke away to score in the corner through replacement back Joss Linney, to make it 22-20 with the conversion attempt to follow.
Unfortunately for the home side Cullen’s effort missed its target and Rotherham held out for a deserved and very important victory.
Commenting post-match Rotherham’s Joe Barker explained, “The boys put in a massive shift against a very good team; Bishop’s showed that if you give them the ball they are going to play from anywhere on this pitch. It’s a very wide pitch and they know how to play on it and it suits the way that they play with the personnel they have.
“They’ve got a great team spirit and they have an outstanding attacking approach and they work very well together in defence.
“However, I have to give massive praise to our lads for grafting it out today. There were times in the second half where we just had to stick in there, which we did and we managed the game really well under pressure. The boys showed terrific character and grit to get through and that’s a good sign for us as a squad moving forwards.
“I was proud of the lads because these are the games you have to win if you have ambitions of being a top-end team. We weren’t at our best but I thought the lads showed great heart to get over the line.
“Now we’ve got to go to the next level because we’ve got a big game next week back at our place against Blackheath and we’re excited about that one. Hopefully they’ll be a great atmosphere at Clifton Lane because a win will be important and we know it’s going to be a challenge.”
Referee: Robert Bourke
Yellow Card: Irvine (Titans)
Titans: Smith-Wano (T), Ure (T), Nagle-Taylor (T), Dolly (2C), Abrahams (P)
Bishop’s Stortford: Elsom (T), Hankin (T), Linney (T), Cullen (C, P)
Titans: 15 Callum Irvine, 14 Dan Leake, 13 Harry Dunne, 12 Ellis Abrahams, 11 Henry Roberts (Field 75), 10 Joe Barker, 9 Alex Dolly (Dever 57), 1 Dan Richardson, 2 Ali Thomson (Bergmanas 71), 3 Rikki Stout (Dennis 57), 4 Conor Keys, 5 Jamie Ure (Ball 41), 6 Smith-Wano, 7 Zak Poole, 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Jack Bergmanas, 17 Will Dennis, 18 Luis Ball, 19 Connor Field, 20 Connor Dever.
Bishops Stortford: 15 Nick Hankin, 14 Robert Duff, 13 Jimmy Rea, 12 Reuben Bird-Tulloch, 11 Chris Smith (Linney 52), 10 George Cullen, 9 Sam Coleman (Banks 56), 1 Seb Brownhill (Castiglione 45), 2 Sam Crean, 3 Tom McCrone (Brownhill 56), 4 Sokonaia Kalou, 5 Matt Tomlinson (Capt.), 6 James Apperley, 7 Dan Elsom (McCraith 67), 8 Charlie Kingham.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Etherington, 17 Louis Castiglione, 18 Mark McCraith, 19 Joss Linney, 20 Tom Banks.