Rotherham Titans put in a spirited second half effort as they went down 35-19 to Ealing Trailfinders in round four of the British & Irish Cup on a cold and wet afternoon in West London.
Titans can be pleased with a second half performance which saw them outscore their high-flying opponents 12-7 and in turn set themselves up in confident mood for next week’s Christmas derby against local rivals Doncaster Knights at Clifton Lane.
However, after 30 minutes of the contest things looked bleak for the South Yorkshire side as Trailfinders cut through the Titans defence to run in four unanswered tries through Grayson Hart, Kieran Murphy, Lewis Robling and Morgan Allen, all of which were expertly converted by full back Peter Lydon.
Titans did manage to cross the whitewash on the stroke of half time when back rower Charlie Maddison barged his way over from the tail of a driving maul, after some good work in the build up from his fellow pack members. Fly half Lee Millar tagged over the extras with the final kick of the half.
Following their disappointing first half performance Titans no doubt shared some honest dialogue in the dressing room at the interval and it appeared to have a positive effect as they started the second half in determined fashion.
Indeed Titans were rewarded for their bright and steely opening endeavours to the half when on 48 minutes winger Ben Foley collected the ball and showed tremendous speed to race down the right flank to score in the corner. Millar narrowly missed with his touchline conversion attempt.
Titans will however be disappointed with allowing Ealing back rower Harry Ellis the freedom of the pitch just 2 minutes later as he galloped home from distance to score under the posts. Lydon knocked over the extras from in front of the sticks.
Undeterred by this setback Rotherham continued to take the game to the hosts and began put them under pressure. As the Titans upped their intensity a new-found aggression forced Trailfinders onto the back foot which in turn led to a number of Ealing errors. Titans scrum also began to enjoy some dominance as it earned a growing number of penalties.
It was no surprise when 10 minutes from time Rotherham added to their tally. As the Ealing defence charged off the line Titans Lee Miller cleverly kicked over the top, allowing hooker Jonny Murphy to charge through to collect skilfully before sliding in under the posts on the wet surface. Millar slotted over the extras from in front of the sticks.
Rotherham went in search of a four-try bonus point but the home defence held out to earn a deserved victory and cement their place at the top of pool 4 as they chase a home quarter final tie in the knock-out stages.
Commenting after the game Titans Andy Key revealed, “When we came in at half time we were very critical of ourselves because as a squad we knew that we’d let ourselves down. A lot of that was just the simple things that we weren’t doing as effectively as we needed to and that’s probably the story of our season.
“We needed to take the space a lot earlier and we needed to make our first-up tackles a little bit tougher. At times we are not respecting or appreciating the work that needs to be done, the hard yards that are needed to be made and sometimes we misunderstand that.
“However, our second half performance was spot on and we won it 12-7; ok we lost the game but I was really pleased with what we saw in the second period. We started to impose ourselves on them; we put them on the back foot and as a result sometimes the game becomes a lot easier.
“We put them under pressure which made them make mistakes and we turned them around; they then kicked poorly and turned over ball. The conditions weren’t the best but I thought we used the ball really well in the second half.
“We’ve now got the massive Christmas derby game next week at Clifton Lane against our local rivals Doncaster Knights and I’m happier that we’ll go into that one on the back of our second half effort.
“If this team learns and understands how it needs to play for between 60 and 80 minutes to win a game it can be effective as we’ve proved again today in the second half against a side that’s sitting second in the Championship and which has some very good players.”
Referee: Karl Dickson
Yellow Card: None
Titans: Maddison (T), Foley (T), Murphy (T), Millar (2C)
Ealing: Hart (T), Murphy (T), Robling (T), Allen (T), Ellis (T), Lydon (5C)
Titans: 15 Will Thomas, 14 Ben Foley, 13 Drew Cheshire, 12 Rory Jennings (Barker 21) (Cooke 64), 11 Jake Henry, 10 Lee Millar, 9 Francisco Vieira (Davies 53), 1 Tom Williams, 2 Jonny Murphy, 3 Sam Nixon (Foster 55), 4 Rob Louw, 5 Guy Borrowdale (Burns 50) (Palmer 70), 6 Dan Grange (Calladine 56), 7 Charlie Maddison (Capt.), 8 Adam Peters.
Replacements: 16 Tom Calladine, 17 Andrew Foster, 18 Brandon Palmer, 19 Tom Burns, 20 Rhodri Davies, 21 Joe Barker, 23 Jamie Cooke.
Ealing Trailfinders: 15 Peter Lydon, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 Lewis Jones, 12 Lewis Robling, 11 James Cordy Redden, 10 Rory Clegg (Penberthy 55), 9 Grayson Hart (Carter 69), 1 James Gibbons (Sears Duru 55), 2 Rhys Lawrence (Walker 61), 3 Mark Tampin (Rodman 56), 4 Llewelyn Jones (Casson 64), 5 Oli Curry, 6 Kieran Murphy (Capt.), 7 Arthur Ellis, 8 Morgan Allen.
Replacements: 16 Alun Walker, 17 Djustice Sears Duru, 18 Sam Rodman, 19 Harry Casson, 20 Rayn Smid, 21 Luke Carter, 22 Aaron Penberthy.