Rotherham Titans 10 London Irish 38: Prolific Tommy Bell signals the end to Titans’ sturdy challenge

Rotherham's George Tressider plays out in Saturday's defeat to London Irish. Picture courtesy of Simon Hall.
Rotherham's George Tressider plays out in Saturday's defeat to London Irish. Picture courtesy of Simon Hall.
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Rotherham Titans’ improving set of forwards prevented a battering at Clifton Lane where the Championship leaders won by five tries to one.

With half the league programme completed, Rotherham have fallen to 10th with a record of four wins, six defeats and one draw, but with players returning from injury shortly, they are cautiously optimistic about climbing the table once the league resumes on Boxing Day with a home fixture against South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster Knights.

As predicted, London Irish were far too strong, scoring two tries in the first half and then another three. The Exiles possess what Rotherham do not and that is a match-winner who performs consistently.

Full-back Tommy Bell not only scored tries on 17 and 46 minutes, he also struck five conversions and a penalty to return south with a match tally of 23 points.

As Rotherham reflect on a performance against a side that contained All Black prop Ben Franks – a World Cup winner in 2011 and 2015 – and two more internationals in the front-row, they can be proud of the way they responded to the challenge.

Not only did the Titans recover from a weak start by scoring an excellent try through hooker Joe Graham when their pack forced their opponents to retreat, the forwards also created three other promising positions from lineouts that should have produced points.

In each case, Rotherham lost control of the ball and the momentum disappeared after cutting the Irish lead to 17-10.

Rotherham were shown how to create and take scoring opportunities by the Championship’s best team, both in attack and defence.

Bell scored his second try as did winger Joe Cokanasiga and once replacement scrum-half Scott Steele had touched down for the fifth on 70 minutes, making it 36-10, Irish’s 11th successive league win was secure.

Rotherham coach Justin Burnell said: “Our front-row played their guts out, the pack was very competitive and it could have been 17-all at half-time, but if you turn the ball over against better opposition, they make gains.”

Rotherham Titans: Goodwin, Foley, Owen, Barker, Jake (Walsh 40), Ryan, Tresidder, Williams (Hutchinson 62), Graham, Rees (Herriott), Salmon, Hicks (Normandale 68), Grange (Curry 55), Calladine (Sanderson 68), Lawrence.

London Irish: Bell, Cokanasiga, Mulchrone, Williams (Hearn 31), Fowlie, Marshall, McKibbin (Steele 69), Court (Palframan 66),Paice(Ellis 77), Franks (Elrington 75), Sexton (Lloyd 53), De Chaves, Coman, Cowan, Treviranus (Nayalo 60).

Referee: A Jackson (RFU).