Rotherham Titans 30 Plymouth Albion 25: Victory is not enough to mask failings of Titans

It Is a sign of the highest of standards which Rotherham’s coach Lee Blackett demands of his players that an inquest will begin today into what went wrong at Clifton Lane, though the Titans still won by three tries to one.
Rotherham's Perry Parker.Rotherham's Perry Parker.
Rotherham's Perry Parker.

The emphasis this week as the match video and the players’ statistics are analysed in detail will be on correcting the errors which came close to causing Rotherham’s downfall in their first home match of the season.

Plymouth, energetic, enthusiastic and sharp in attack and defence, threatened seriously to produce a major upset.

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Rotherham, trailing 19-14 at the interval, made so many uncharacteristic mistakes which Plymouth, supposedly one of the weaker teams in the Championship, would not have predicted from a side of their opponents’ quality.

During a first half in which Rotherham struggled to put together regular, fluent moves of lasting substance because of careless and rushed handling, Plymouth surprisingly impressed against the firm favourites who may have been complacent following the outstanding performance at Bedford.

Rotherham now know it is unwise to underestimate the opposition because the Championship is a tough competition.

By 62 minutes, Plymouth were in a match-winning position after Lawrence Rayner had kicked his sixth penalty. With a lead of 25-20 Albion, even though they had been cut to 13 players following yellow cards against two forwards, were playing confidently and continued to threaten.

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The urgently needed improvement Rotherham required gathered pace on 69 minutes as centre Jordan Davies completed a move, assisted by forward Ben Morris, to score his second try.

This score was not as spectacular as Davies’s first try, a solo effort as he dashed 60 metres, but considering the state of the contest, was more significant.

Rotherham were now level and with fly-half James McKinney returning to form as a goal kicker, the Titans seized a lead of two points following the Ulsterman’s third conversion.

Indeed, McKinney played a decisive role in this closest of games, finishing with 15 invaluable points. His penalties on 55 and 58 minutes punished Plymouth’s yellow cards and reduced Albion’s advantage to 22-20, and when the visitors were penalised for the 13th occasion in the 74th minute, McKinney’s accuracy was again deadly to put Rotherham in front 30-25.

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The Titans managed to protect this priceless lead and finished the game more strongly than Plymouth just as they had started more impressively by scoring a try by winger Michael Keating, on his return from a hernia operation, after three minutes.

Rotherham perhaps at that stage thought that Plymouth would be conquered with ease.

It proved otherwise and the Titans have the responsibility to put right the slackness that upset Blackett.

“It was a really, really bad day at the office,” he said. “It was a win but a disappointing performance. We didn’t come out of the blocks and didn’t appear in the right state.

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“We made many mistakes with the ball in hand and that cost us the extra point. We need to be a lot more physical against Jersey this Saturday. A massive improvement is needed because if we play there like we did in the first half we’ll be beaten.”

As he showed against Bedford, centre Davies, formerly at Sale and Salford Reds, has the ability, power and pace to be an influential player in the Championship.

His tries against Plymouth on his home league debut have given him the confidence needed after few first-team opportunities last season.

“It was hard to get a start then with Juan Pablo Socino and Jack Roberts playing well, so I tried to make an impact from the bench.

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“This season the competition is tough, too, but, hopefully, I’ll now get more game-time and my confidence will grow. The supporters here are great and Rotherham’s style of rugby suits me.”

Rotherham Titans: Hayes, Keating, Harris (Gill 27), J Davies, Wilson, McKinney, White (A Davies 40), Hislop (Williams 69), Cruse (Barrett 76), Tampin (Thiede 51), Parker, Holmes, Rieder, Preece, Ryan (Birch 49).

Plymouth Albion: Koteczky, Jake, Howley-Berridge, Woods, Warner, Davies (Williams 71),Cowan-Dickie( Fidler 43), Stagg (Matavesi 69), Tiedemann (Heard 71), Jubb, Oakley (Beukeboom 56), Langley (Grace 51), Simmonds, Grieve.

Referee: T Wigglesworth.