ROTHERHAM Titans blew an opportunity to close the gap on fourth-place Nottingham with a poor performance at bottom-of-the-table Plymouth Albion.
With Nottingham losing 12-10 at Jersey, the Titans could have put themselves firmly in the frame for an end-of-season play-off place in the Championship.
But, instead, they returned home empty-handed after meeting an Albion side buoyed by news that they would not be going into administration.
It was only Albion’s second league win of the season, and Titans head coach Lee Blackett said: “I am very disappointed. We knew what a tough encounter it was going to be. It was about playing the tough conditions, and Plymouth fully deserved their win,” he said. “They managed the game very well and took their chances.
“The penalty count against us wasn’t too disastrous, but it was where on the field we gave away those penalties – inside our own half – and that allowed them to kick to the corner and get those scores.”
Rotherham failed to use the strong wind behind them in the opening period, and Blackett also took the unusual step of taking two forwards off five minutes before the break for tactical reasons. “We had to make the changes because we were struggling physically for a bit and we had to put a bit more weight into the pack.”
Rotherham scored first with a fifth-minute penalty by fly-half James McKinney, but Albion led 10-3 at the break after two catch-and-drive tries from former Exeter Chiefs back row duo Rob Langley and Eoghan Grace.
Langley added another from open play soon after the interval, before flanker Jack Preece replied through Rotherham’s catch-and-drive to make it 15-8.
It looked like Titans would hang on for a losing bonus point, but yet another driving line-out saw Stupple get the four-try bonus score for Albion and full-back Lawrence Rayner converted.
Plymouth Albion: Rayner, Arnott, Woods, Howley-Berridge, B Foley, Cusack (capt), Davies (Cushion 65), Fidler (Chapman 79), Stagg (T Cowan-Dickie 65), Tiedemann, Patrick (Stupple ht), Beukeboom, Langley, Grace, Oakley. Unused replacements: Heard, Henry, Clements-Hill.
Rotherham Titans: Keating, Broadley, Hayes, Scanlon, Wilson, McKinney, White (Mitchell ht), Hislop (Williams 20), Cruse, Tampin (Thiede 52), Parker, Holmes (capt), Birch (Argyle 35), Preece (Morris 69), Rieder (Ryan 35). Unused replacement: Barrett.
Referee: S Lee (RFU).