Rotherham Titans turn on style to beat Sheffield Tigers and take advantage of Leeds Tykes loss

Rotherham Titans rugby consultant Harvey Biljon insisted the “shackles are off” as his side soared ever closer to National League Two North promotion following a resounding 36-14 South Yorkshire derby victory over Sheffield Tigers on Saturday.

Despite a nervy first-half showing that saw the former Premiership club behind at the break, Biljon’s men recovered in merciless fashion via a relentless 24-point onslaught – ultimately sealing a much-desired bonus point through Jack Taylor’s last-minute try.

The result means league leaders Rotherham are now two points clear of second-placed Leeds Tykes, with one game remaining for each.

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Leeds – who looked to be promotion favourites before a shock 18-15 loss away to Fylde in their last outing – host third-placed Sheffield RUFC at Headingley Stadium, while Biljon’s side travel to relegation-threatened Billingham in what may be their crowning moment.

Rotherham Titans are now in pole position ahead of Leeds Tykes (Picture: Kerrie Beddows)Rotherham Titans are now in pole position ahead of Leeds Tykes (Picture: Kerrie Beddows)
Rotherham Titans are now in pole position ahead of Leeds Tykes (Picture: Kerrie Beddows)

The former Jersey Reds director of rugby was quick to indicate his squad will be up for the challenge in the aftermath of Saturday’s win.

“Let’s just enjoy it,” Biljon told The Yorkshire Post. “I just said to the players at the sign off that we were a bit anxious in that game, but the shackles are off now. Tuesday and Thursday are going to be so important for our training, but let’s go and give promotion a real shot.”

Yet the South African was aware Saturday’s performance was not all plain sailing for his table toppers, and duly acknowledged the stern test Tigers provided.

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Sheffield Tigers put in a real performance – make no mistake,” Biljon added.

“They came prepared to play for any plus minutes, and they showed that with their endeavour. I don’t want to get too far ahead (of ourselves), to be fair. The team had to face some real adversity today. So, let’s see where our players are and then get into Tuesday and Thursday and get ourselves ready for the weekend and prepare as best we can.”

Tigers director of rugby Jack Howieson was equally impressed with his side’s showing.

The seventh-placed team host Fylde on the final day, and Howieson believes his men have enough to go further next term.

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“It was a great game and that isn’t our only performance this season where we have really competed with one of the league’s better teams,” he said.

“I think the challenge for us is to do what we did in the first half consistently.

“We’re looking like we’re going to finish higher than we did last year, and the aim for next year is to go even further.”

Rotherham’s quick start left travelling supporters delighted, as Laurence Cowen-Leak crossed to make it 5-0 before Lloyd Hayes overshot from the tee.

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Yet Tigers responded in excellent fashion through a hard-fought maul try and a sharp Mark Ireland conversion.

Titans pulled back after a smart lineout maul which Callum Bustin finished before Hayes grabbed the extras.

Tigers nonetheless made good of their overall resolute showing when James Broadley’s sublime run allowed Sam Wager to touch down for a 14-12 advantage.

Following half-time, however, Hayes spearheaded Rotherham’s comeback through four unanswered central penalties to hand his side an unassailable 24-14 lead.

Titans had only a try bonus point in their sights after that ruthless execution – eventually achieved by Jack Townend’s and Taylor’s late tries.