With the Championship campaign resuming this weekend, both South Yorkshire’s teams used the British and Irish Cup derby to prepare satisfactorily for important league games at Bedford, Doncaster’s opponents, and at Clifton Lane where Rotherham, 10th in the table, must beat bottom-club Richmond in a relegation battle. Considering that this tie was a dead rubber, thankfully both sides realised the significance of being competitive and the benefits of being so.
Doncaster’s narrow victory was their third in four games this season against their local rivals, but Rotherham will be encouraged by the forceful performance of their pack.
The atmosphere at Castle Park, created by a decent crowd of 1,200, was loud and partisan as supporters appreciated a close contest that was decided by the accurate goal kicking of Doncaster’s centre Dougie Flockhart, the club’s record points scorer.
The Scotsman celebrated his 200th appearance by striking three penalties and a conversion; indeed, Flockhart’s penalties on 67 and 77 minutes were match winners as they overturned Rotherham’s 12-10 lead created by two tries from hooker Charlie Maddison and a conversion from fly half Oliver Bryant.
Maddison’s tries, one in each half, both came from lineouts as Rotherham’s impressive forwards drove powerfully towards Doncaster’s line. The Titans’ lead was fully deserved, but they failed to increase it because promising positions were not taken advantage of.
Doncaster, though, did exploit their opportunities. Pressure by their pack resulted in a yellow card for Rotherham flanker Buster Lawrence on 66 minutes. His deliberate knock-on was punished by Flockhart who then added another three points, again in front of the posts, 10 minutes later as Rotherham conceded a penalty following raids by Doncaster’s forwards.
The Knights’ match winner readily acknowledged how tough the contest was. “We put out a strong side so credit to them because Rotherham played well and stopped us all when we tested them,” said Flockhart.
“It looks as if we’ll play Yorkshire Carnegie in the next round. We’ve turned them over before and we’ll be looking to do it again.”
As regards Rotherham, they recovered from a poor display at London Scottish three weeks ago and with injured players returning against Richmond, the Titans can be optimistic.
“There are though a lot of positives,” said coach Justin Burnell.