Rotherham Titans put in a much-improved performance as they notched-up their second British & Irish Cup success with an impressive 31-10 victory over Richmond at Clifton Lane.
Titans outscored their opponents by three tries to one, with Jamie Cooke, Drew Cheshire and a penalty try securing the points. The victory lifts the Titans from the foot of pool 4 and a win next Friday evening in Ireland over Connacht Eagles would see the South Yorkshire side finish runners up in the group.
Titans started the game in bright fashion as they enjoyed a huge amount of territory and possession. Unfortunately for them, Richmond’s defence held firm and it was not until the 23rd minute that Rotherham got on the board. This came via the boot of fly half Lee Millar who confidently slotted over a 3 pointer in difficult, windy conditions.
Titans however didn’t have to wait too much longer to add to their tally. On 28 minutes following some penetrative play from the pack, the ball came out to Jamie Cooke, who playing at centre for the first time, showed impressive footwork and physicality to power over for the first try. Millar’s conversion was pushed narrowly wide by the crosswind.
Rotherham continued to dominate proceedings and five minutes before the break increased their advantage when the impressive Drew Cheshire galloped through the visitors defence to dot down under the posts. Millar bagged the extras from in front of the sticks to stretch the home side’s advantage to 15-0.
In the final play of the half Richmond finally gained some territory and forced Rotherham into conceding a penalty. Winger Ali Chisholm converted with the last kick of the half and Titans went in at the break with a deserved 15-3 advantage.
Rotherham were determined not to let their first half hard work be spoiled with a sloppy start to the second period and their defence ensured this would not be the case.
Titans’ intensity remained high in the opening exchanges and they steadily increased their advantage with three successful penalties from the reliable boot of Millar.
The only blot on the Titans afternoon came 8 minutes from time when Richmond’s loose head prop, Will Goodrick-Clarke crashed over for a try, following a short period of forward pressure close to the Titans line.
Undeterred by this setback Rotherham rallied and showed their own pack-power. From a line out just outside the Richmond 22 Titans set up a driving maul and powered their way up to the visitor’s line before illegally being brought to ground. Referee Mike Hudson was left with no choice but to award Rotherham a penalty try.
Titans went in search of a bonus-point fourth try, but credit to the visitors defence as they held out firmly to deny Rotherham the cherry on top of the cake.
Speaking post-match Titans Nic Rouse explained, “You can only play the team that’s in front of you and Richmond have suffered a few injuries in the last few weeks and they had a mixed side out there. They had some real quality on the bench though, especially in their front row and at scrum half, but at the same time you’ve still got to perform against the opposition and I thought the boys put in a good shift.
“I was disappointed with their try as it came off our mistake, but overall I thought we made a step in the right direction. We won’t get ahead of ourselves and our focus is really on the Championship; we have a big game here in a couple of weeks against Cornish Pirates and that’s what we’re building towards.
“What pleased me with our performance today was they didn’t get in our half in the first 40 minutes until the final minute when they got a penalty and overall our defence was really good. The boys are really buying in to what we are doing and we got the win so we’re all delighted with that.
“I thought Caolan Ryan, playing out of position, really made a difference in the second half. Likewise I thought Jamie Cooke came in and did a job; he held a few defenders for us to score the first try. I thought Drew Cheshire had an outstanding game on the wing and Andrew Foster, who has been a bit in and out of the squad, really showed us what he can do at scrum time.”
Referee: Mike Hudson
Yellow Card: None
Titans: Cooke (T), Cheshire (T), Penalty Try, Millar (4P, 1C)
Richmond: Goodrick-Clarke (T), Chisholm (1P, 1C)
Titans: 15 Caolan Ryan, 14 Drew Cheshire, 13 Jamie Cooke, 12 Joe Barker, 11 Wesley Hamilton, 10 Lee Millar, 9 Francisco Vieira (Foley h-t), 1 Tom Williams (Toby Williams 52), 2 Luke Cole (Capt.), 3 Brandon Palmer (Foster 17), 4 Rob Louw, 5 James Lasis, 6 Nic Dolly, 7 Dan Grange (Peters59), 8 Tom Burns (Maddison 66).
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Toby Williams, 18 Andrew Foster, 19 Adam Peters, 20 Charlie Maddison, 21 Ben Foley, 22 Jake Henry.
Richmond: 15 Jordan Simpson-Hefft, 14 Martin Freeman, 13 Cameron Mitchell, 12 Cameron Hudson, 11 Ali Chisholm, 10 Freddie Gabbitass (Damant 52), 9 Rhodri Adamson (Jones 66), 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Jason Phipps (Townsend 50), 3 Craig Trenier (Tarrant 50), 4 Stan South, 5 Fraser Wem (Scott 55), 6 Lorcan Dow (Lee36), 7 Tom Sargeant, 8 Harison Edwards.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Townsend, 17 Jeremy Cunnew, 18 Myles Scott, 19 Luc Jones, 20 Rory Damant, 21 Adam Lee, 22 Joe Tarrant.