Rotherham Titans mounted a stunning late comeback to snatch a thrilling 30-26 victory over county rivals Yorkshire Carnegie at a warm and sunny Clifton Lane.
Trailing 19-6 with 20 minutes to go Rotherham showed tremendous spirit and character to score two tries through Drew Cheshire and one from Jake Henry, with both Caolan Ryan and Lee Millar adding vital points from the boot to seal a well-deserved, dramatic victory.
The match itself started with the visitors in the ascendancy as they looked to put tempo into the game. Their early endeavours were reward inside four minutes as a powerful driving maul from a line out saw Carnegie hooker Mike Mayhew crash over from the tail. Stevie McColl bagged the impressive extras from out wide to give his side a 7-0 lead.
Carnegie continued to have the upper hand as the game progressed, but a spirited and resilient Titans defence repeatedly held out their Yorkshire rivals, often close to their own line.
Slowly Rotherham began to impose themselves on the game and just after the half hour mark Caolan Ryan struck a terrific long-range penalty to reduce his side’s arrears to 7-3.
Just before the break Titans were reduced to 14 players after lock forward Matt Postlethwaite received a yellow card for his part in a repeated set of penalties.
At the beginning of the second period Carnegie quickly exploited the man advantage as their backs moves the ball effectively across the line for winger Louis Brown to score in the corner. McColl again impressed with his successful conversion from out wide.
Titans’ Lee Millar narrowed the deficit on 47 minutes with a long-range penalty and 4 minutes later almost did the same again from 55 metres. This time however the ball agonising came up just short of the target.
Moments later Millar received what many in the ground thought a harsh yellow card for a ‘late tackle’ on Carnegie fly half Pete Lucock. Again the visitors quickly exploited their numerical advantage as hooker Mike Mayhew crashed over for his second dot down of the match. McColl missed the extras from out wide the leave Carnegie 19-6 to the good.
With just under 20 minutes remaining Titans needed some inspiration and that inspiration arrived from winger Drew Cheshire who collected the ball on the right flank before chipping ahead and outpacing Oli Fox to collect and dot down for a marvellous try. Caolan Ryan tagged over the extras from the touchline.
Five minutes later and Rotherham took the lead for the first time in the match when left winger Jake Henry collected and powerfully barged his way through to narrowly score in the corner under massive Carnegie pressure. Ryan bagged the extras impressively from the left touchline to nudge his side into a 20-19 lead.
With Titans now in full flow and the faithful from the Shed passionately egging their side on Cheshire scored a wonderful try as he dummied a pass before cutting back inside to score next to the sticks. Ryan knocked over the straightforward conversion to put Rotherham 27-19 up.
On 76 minutes Lee Millar again demonstrated his prowess with the boot as he nailed another impressive long-range penalty to stretch his sides lead to 30-19.
With Yorkshire pride at stake the visitors set the game up for a nervy finish after scrum half Oli Fox crossed the whitewash for his sides bonus point try. McColl’s extras reduced Carnegie’s arrears to 30-16.
Carnegie desperately pushed forward in their attempts to steal a victory but the men from Clifton Lane held on resolutely to earn a thrilling victory.
Commenting post-match Titans Nic Rouse explained, “This week has been the toughest week of the year for me as a coach and in terms of preparing the boys; at times we only had 12 boys training and we had to play football.
“The numbers were so low in training it was difficult and our best session was the team run on Friday. We only had four boys on the bench today and one of those wasn’t really fit enough to go on, so effectively we only had 3 replacements.
“In the game we wanted to play some rugby against Carnegie and we wanted to take a bit of sting out of them. They rarely kick the ball so we needed to be good defensively and I was massively impressed with the boys in that area. Our patience and discipline was very good and I am very proud of the lads.”
Referee: Dean Richards
Yellow Card: Postlethwaite & Millar (Titans), Mitchell (Carnegie)
Titans: Cheshire (2T), Henry (T), Ryan (P, 3C), Millar (2P)
Carnegie: Mayhew (2T), Brown (T), Fox (T), McColl (3C)
Titans: 15 Will Thomas, 14 Drew Cheshire, 13 Jamie Cooke, 12 Lee Millar, 11 Jake Henry, 10 Caolan Ryan, 9 Francisco Vieira, 1 Tom Williams, 2 Luke Cole (Dolly 69), 3 Andrew Foster (Palmer76), 4 Rob Louw, 5 Matt Postlethwaite, 6 Tom Burns, 7 Adam Peters, 8 Tom Calladine (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Nic Dolly, 17 Brandon Palmer, 18 Dan Grange, 19 Wesley Hamilton, 20 Joe Barker, 21 James Lasis, 22 Ben Foley.
Yorkshire Carnegie: 15 Stevie McColl, 14 Tom Bullough, 13 Chris Elder, 12 Andy Forsyth, 11 Louis Brown (Dunne 60) (Bryce 66), 10 Pete Lucock (Davey 58), 9 Oli Fox, 1 James Thraves (Beech 60), 2 Mike Mayhew (Newborn 76), 3 Craig Mitchell, 4 Jack Whetton, 5 Matt Smith, 6 Ben West, 7 Richard Mayhew, 8 Richard Beck (Bainbridge 58).
Replacement: 16 Harry Newborn, 17 Charlie Beech, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Elliot Ward, 20 Josh Bainbridge, 21 Harry Davey, 22 Harry Dunne.