Rotherham Titans 10 Nottingham 46: Harsh lessons learned as Titans are mauled in home opener

Rotherham Titans' Dan Grange tries to find a way through Nottingham. Picture: Steve Riding.
Rotherham Titans' Dan Grange tries to find a way through Nottingham. Picture: Steve Riding.
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A new season may well usher in a new era at many clubs but, for Rotherham Titans, the same issues still appear to be prevalent after their rebuilt squad was thrashed by Nottingham at Clifton Lane.

The summer saw a significant upheaval under boss Andy Key, who brought in 19 players during the off-season. But they were outclassed by an outfit that were stronger in every facet of the game.

TOUGH DAY: Rotherham Titans  captain Tom Calladine finds his path blocked by Nottinghams Ben Morris and Ben Brownlee on a difficult opening weekend at Clifton Lane which saw the hosts trounced 46-10. Picture: Steve Riding.

TOUGH DAY: Rotherham Titans captain Tom Calladine finds his path blocked by Nottinghams Ben Morris and Ben Brownlee on a difficult opening weekend at Clifton Lane which saw the hosts trounced 46-10. Picture: Steve Riding.

It may well be the case of a vastly different team needing time to gel and Key will certainly hope that was the reason, with this performance almost reminiscent of the side that finished the previous campaign.

Only Drew Cheshire’s superb first-half try, which had given the Titans a 10-5 advantage, provided any solace for the head coach, who admitted that the Nottingham rearguard was too strong on the day.

“I take my hat off to Nottingham who have got a very organised defence,” he said. “In the modern day, if you get your defence right you’re part way there to winning games and that’s where we came unstuck.

“We put ourselves under unnecessary pressure by trying things when we shouldn’t have done and conceded two silly tries; one in the first half and one in the second half.

We’re a young side and four games into the season. We now know what it is we need to do and what the standards are.

Rotherham Titans’ head coach, Andy Key.

“When you’re doing that and making some mistakes you’re not helping yourself, but we’re a young side and four games into the season. We now know what it is we need to do and what the standards are.”

Key’s men were gallant but the visitors were ultimately too powerful for the Yorkshiremen, who were unable to match the sheer physicality of the Nottingham back-row.

Captain Tom Calladine, playing against his former club, did his best to stem the flow of quick ball while No 8 Ifereimi Boladau had a couple of barn-storming surges that sent the opposition into reverse.

But this new-look squad struggled to gain possession and territory.

STARTER FOR 10: Rotherham Titans' head coach Andy Key. Picture: Steve Riding.

STARTER FOR 10: Rotherham Titans' head coach Andy Key. Picture: Steve Riding.

They began positively enough, benefiting from an error at the kick-off by the visitors and earned a penalty from which Lee Millar put the Titans ahead.

From thereon in, however, the hosts failed to prevent the slick and well-organised away side from getting on the front foot. It was to Rotherham’s credit that they were resilient and forced Nottingham to initially work hard for their points but, at the same time, the dam had to burst eventually.

The maul was a particularly profitable weapon for the East Midlanders and the first of two tries via that tactic saw Ben Brownlie go over as they moved 5-3 ahead.

Rotherham responded – and in style – when a wonderfully-worked attack ended in Cheshire scampering across the whitewash, but that was their brightest moment of the afternoon.

Nottingham were soon back in control and, when the Titans attempted to play out of their 22, Eden pounced to regain the visitors’ lead.

That score was the start of a remarkable run of 41 successive points, with the Green and Whites managing to consistently batter their way through a fairly flimsy wall during the second period.

Eden was often the architect. The stand-off kicked a penalty and a drop-goal late in the first half before he and half-back partner Murray McConnell combined to great effect after the interval.

The Titans duly crumbled under the pressure exerted and, by the 56th minute, the match was effectively over as a meaningful contest.

Firstly, Ben Morris touched down after Will Thomas’s error had allowed the visitors to set up camp in the hosts’ 22, before another dominant maul resulted in Brownlie scoring again.

Pride was the only thing at stake going into the latter stages of the encounter but Rotherham could not even muster one final surge. Instead, Nottingham reaffirmed their dominance, going over twice more via Sean Scanlon and Jacob Farnworth to complete a miserable afternoon for Key and his players.

Rotherham Titans: Thomas; Loizias (Henry 66), Peters, Barker, Cheshire; Millar, Davies (Viera 70); Toby Williams (Tom Williams 66), Cole (Maddison 59), Shields (Foster 59); Louw (Lasis 30), Hodge; Grange (Burns 70), Calladine (capt.), Boladau.

Nottingham: Scanlon; Robinson, Evans, Lyons, Spittle; Eden, McConnell; West, Brownlie, Hooper; Holmes, Qualter; Morris (capt.), Coghlan, Poullet. Replacements: Farnworth, Sio, Burke, Buckley, Everard, Veenendaal, Hakalo.

Referee: Michael Hudson (RFU).