Rotherham left counting cost of ‘horrendous’ lineouts

Rotherham Titans' head coach Justin Burnell (Picture: Scott Merrylees).
Rotherham Titans' head coach Justin Burnell (Picture: Scott Merrylees).
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Rotherham Titans left the Channel Islands with plenty of respect, but no points, as their wretched season nears its conclusion.

Justin Burnell’s side built a 6-0 lead in a first half full of promise, but they could not hold back the red tide in the second half as Jersey kept alive their hopes of gatecrashing the Championship’s promotion play-offs.

Rotherham’s performance was described as “spirited” and Burnell was left feeling his side should have at least claimed a losing bonus point. But the cold, hard facts remain that they failed to score a try in the game and languish just one point above bottom side Richmond with two games remaining.

Only the financial implosion of London Welsh, who went out of business, means they have nothing other than pride and the avoidance of the wooden spoon to play for, as opposed to the unthinkable and relegation to National One.

“I’m very disappointed to come away with nothing,” said Burnell.

“I thought we were the better side and it was just a couple of horrendous lineouts that let us down when we were otherwise dominant. The boys showed great spirit and should be proud of their display.”

With the wind at their backs at St Peter, Rotherham built a 6-0 interval lead on the strength of their scrum and their ability to disrupt Jersey’s lineouts.

On four occasions they charged down box kicks by Jersey No 9 Kieran Hardy and they had Lee Millar to thank for his unerring accuracy, landing two kicks at goal, including one from 55m.

But playing against the wind in the second period was always going to be a tough ask, Simon Kerrod barging over early on to signal Jersey’s intent.

Callum Sheedy converted, and although Caolan Ryan edged Rotherham back ahead with another penalty, Sheedy’s next kick gave Jersey a lead they would never relinquish.

Jersey No 8 Nick Haining proved the pivotal figure, twice snaffling key Rotherham lineouts before crossing the tryline to secure the win in the 72nd minute. Sheedy’s conversion took the losing bonus point away from Rotherham.

“It was a real heart-and-soul effort from Rotherham,” acknowledged Reds’ head coach Harvey Biljon.

“We certainly knew we were in a game, but my players showed real character to claw their way back.

“I think Rotherham came with a game plan, they pushed the boundaries around the set-piece and the breakdown and gave it everything.

“There were two or three moments in the first half that we should have capitalised on and come away with a few more points so we need to go and look at why we didn’t take those points. The second half was just about controlling the pitch, controlling the territory.”

Rotherham host Nottingham next Saturday in their final home game of the season. That, realistically, is their last chance at points, as their final game of the campaign is away at unbeaten leaders London Irish.