Rotherham Titans secured their first Championship victory of the season with a dramatic 27-24 win over Cornish Pirates to make it three wins on the trot following B&I Cup wins over Richmond and Connacht.
Titans clinched the Clifton Lane thrilling with a Caolan Ryan penalty four minutes into injury time. His penalty from close to the touchline was even more impressive as it was his first kick at goal following Lee Millar’s departure on 80 minutes.
Titans had gone in at the break leading 21-10 after a pulsating 40 minutes which saw them score three tries to the Pirates one. However, the visitors mounted a ferocious second half comeback which saw them take a 24-21 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining following two converted tries.
Despite the setback Titans rallied and late penalties from Lee Millar and Caolan Ryan sent the passionate Titans faithful into raptures.
Titans arguably played their best 40 minutes of rugby all season during the first period as forwards and backs combined effectively with pace and precision.
However, despite Rotherham’s bright start it was the Pirates who got the scoreboard ticking first when fly half Will Cargill knocked over a penalty on 8 minutes.
Nevertheless, Rotherham stormed back on 13 minutes when Lee Millar cleverly chipped over the defence to collect before finding Joe Barker, who in turn sent in Will Thomas down the left hand side for a super try. Millar tagged on the extras.
Within 3 minutes Titans were celebrating their second try. From a line out on the left hand side Titans worked the ball across the field to Caolan Ryan who smartly drew the tackle before finding Drew Cheshire. The flying winger showed great pace as he galloped over the line for his sixth try in as many games. Millar impressed again with the boot as he converted from out wide.
Pirates, as always, showed their character as they mounted a ferocious attack through their forward pack which culminated with centre Nicolas De Battista crashing over for a try which Cargill converted on 24 minutes.
Undeterred and roared on by a vociferous crowd Rotherham added their third try five minutes before the break. From a scrum about 10 meters inside their own half Rhodri Davies picked up from the base and made huge yards downfield before finding Drew Cheshire on the wing.
Cheshire fended off a tackle before slipping a lovely pass back inside to Ryan who showed a clean pair of heels to race in near the posts for another terrific Titans try. Millar maintained his 100% kicking record with the conversion.
The visitors were expected to come out for the second half with an increased urgency about their work and this they did. Forwards Chris Morgan and Tom Duncan both crashed over for tries with Will Cargill converting both to edge the visitors 24-21 ahead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Now it was the turn of Rotherham to show some character following the huge disappointment of losing their long-standing advantage – and this they did!
Rotherham’s pack, led magnificently by skipper Tom Calladine, was heroic as they barged and banged their way through the Pirates defence. From the pressure created the visitors conceded a penalty wide out on the right hand side and from the difficult angle Millar impressed as he knocked over his fourth successful kick of the game on 80 minutes.
Into injury time and with less than two minutes remaining, Titans forwards pack forced another penalty. With Millar now off the field it was up to Caolan Ryan to step up to take the kick five metres from touch. Before the flags were raised the deafening noise from the shed told everyone in the ground it was a good one.
Titans saw out the remaining minute to secure a well-deserved and hard-earned first Championship win of the season.
Commenting post-match a delighted Nic Rouse explained, “I’m ecstatic we were able to get the win and especially for the boys because they deserve it. They’ve worked hard when things weren’t going our way and they’ve always turned up on a Monday morning with a great attitude.
“They boys were fantastic; we trained for a few situations and the scenario at the end where we needed a penalty to win was one of those. Caolan stepped up at the end, having not kicked all day and for him to knock it over was amazing and fair play to him for that. I’m delighted not just for him but to everyone connected with the club.
“I have to give a special mention to Ed Robinson who has come in to help us out with the backs. He’s done a great job for such a young guy, he’s only 24 and he’s made a massive difference since coming in a couple of weeks ago. A lot of credit has to go to him for this win.”
Referee: Fergus Kirby
Yellow Card: Calladine (Titans)
Titans: Thomas (T), Cheshire (T), Ryan (T, P), Millar (3C, P)
Cornish Pirates: Battista (T), Morgan (T), Duncan (T), Cargill (3C, P)
Titans: 15 Caolan Ryan, 14 Drew Cheshire (Foley h-t), 13 Jamie Cooke, 12 Joe Barker, 11 Will Thomas, 10 Lee Millar (Henry 80), 9 Rhodri Davies, 1 Toby Williams, 2 Jonny Murphy (Cole 49), 3 Andrew Foster, 4 Rob Louw, 5 James Lasis (Dolly 67), 6 Adam Peters, 7 Charlie Maddison (Burns 73), 8 Tom Calladine (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Luke Cole, 17 Tom Williams, 18 Tom Burns, 19 Nic Dolly, 20 Dan Grange, 21 Ben Foley, 22 Jake Henry.
Cornish Pirates: 15 Toby May, 14 Kyle Moyle, 13 Dan Koster, 12 Nicolas De Battista, 11 Nicolas Coronel (O'Meara 58), 10 Will Cargill (May 71), 9 Alex Day, 1 Marlen Walker (Jack Andrew 12), 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Christian Judge (Paul Andrew 52), 4 Chris Morgan (Capt.), 5 Toby Freeman (Caulfield 58), 6 Rupert Cooper (Lee 47), 7 John Stevens, 8 Tom Duncan.
Replacements: 16 Paul Andrew, 17 Jack Andrew, 18 Josh Caulfield, 19 Dan Lee, 20 Mike Pope, 21 Laurence May, 22 Alex O'Meara.