Rotherham Titans 21 Hartpury College 32: Key has reasons to be cheerful despite losing streak

Rotherham Titans head coach Andy Key: Remains optimistic.
Rotherham Titans head coach Andy Key: Remains optimistic.
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Rotherham’s weak start to the Championship, three consecutive defeats, two at home, has kept them bottom of the league table with no points and it would be a major surprise if the Titans were to achieve their first win on Sunday at Cornish Pirates.

Having conceded 16 tries in games against Nottingham, Doncaster and Hartpury and scored only three tries, the problems facing the team and coaches Andy Key and Nic Rouse are considerable in such a competitive league.

We are not a side that’s going to die. We are only three games into the season, the squad’s attitude and team spirit can’t be faulted.

Rotherham head coach, Andy Key

The Championship’s newest side should have been beaten at Clifton Lane but Rotherham failed to take advantage of their fighting recovery which put them behind at 22-21 just after the hour-mark.

Losing by 19-6 at the interval having let in three tries on 17, 27 and 32 minutes, Rotherham fought back strongly, and, playing with pace and authority, scored tries through flanker Adam Peters and winger Jake Henry.

Their tally also increased following a conversion and a penalty from fly-half Lee Millar, so, after 62 minutes, Rotherham had plenty of time left to set up an urgently needed win.

However, they could not break through again as the Hartpury forwards regained control and began again to threaten.

This pressure produced the desired result, a fourth try and with it a bonus point in the 75th minute, when replacement prop Tom Heard was driven over.

The conversion stretched the lead of the Gloucestershire club to 29-21 and Rotherham’s third successive loss was confirmed three minutes later by a penalty kick.

Poor defence in a mediocre first half contributed to Rotherham’s woes as in the defeats by Nottingham and Doncaster. The Titans’ pack, on this evidence, lacks consistent aggression and consequently fails to punch holes in the opposition defence.

However, Key saw signs to be optimistic: “I was really pleased with the second half, which we won. Our pace and commitment were increased and our fitness was excellent.

“We are not a side that’s going to die. We are only three games into the season, the squad’s attitude and team spirit can’t be faulted and for 60 minutes we showed what we were capable of.”

Rotherham Titans: Thomas (Foley 75), Cheshire, L Peters, Barker, Henry, Millar, Davies (Vieira 77), Toby Williams (Thomas Williams 77), Cole (Murphy 69), Shields (Foster 60), Lasis (Burns 60), Hodge, A Peters, Calladine, Grange.

Hartpury: Wilcox, Cochrane, Carpenter (Boulton 46), Eves, Caven, Perry (Williams 61), Randall, Murphy (Flook 70), Tanner (Tratford 50), Harden (Heard 68), Edwards (Quinn 68), Oakley, Langley, Gilbert (Dyer 64), Grieve.

Referee: J Makepeace.