Rotherham Titans 52 Ulster Ravens 17: Titans star turns back clock to childhood heroics

A vibrant performance during which they scored seven tries at Clifton Lane has increased significantly Rotherham’s chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals and, importantly, the prospect of a home draw and potential prize money of £10,000.

Rotherham's Tom Barrett. (Picture: Scott Merrylees SM1006/01h)

So, with two games left in Pool 2 which Rotherham lead on 19 points following four consecutive wins, the Titans are confident that a return of another five points in the next fortnight against Aberavon and Yorkshire Carnegie will achieve their ambition.

In a strong team effort which produced three tries in the first half and then four more in the second, two individual performances stood out.

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Flanker Jack Preece scored a hat-trick; his tries, all from line outs, showed the dominance of the Rotherham forwards as he was driven over on eight, 37 and 55 minutes.

“This is my first hat-trick since I was a kid when we used to play eight-a-side games in the 22. The moves we practised in the week came off and when we get them right, Rotherham can be a dangerous team,” said Preece.

“We had new combinations in the pack and, taking that into account, this was a good performance against a good team.

“I am confident that we can get better and better in the B and I Cup, but we need to back this performance up with solid efforts in the next fortnight.

The decision by coach Lee Blackett to rest first-choice fly-half James McKinney and instead to give a starting opportunity to Tom Barrett, the former Wharfedale No 10, proved to be the correct one.

Not only did Barrett manage the game successfully, he also scored a try in the 45th minute and put over seven conversions and a penalty.

A match return of 22 points brought praise from his coach and team-mates, not least Barrett’s colleagues in the backs who benefited from his sharp distribution.

“It was a thrill to get the chance to start a match and take the scoring opportunities that came my way,” explained Barrett.

“I would like the opportunity to begin more games, but competition is stiff.

“I certainly had more luck with my goal-kicking than I did on my last appearance when I missed a few, so I was pleased to show the fans what I am capable of.

Rotherham led 24-3 at the interval and their control resulting from powerful displays in the pack from locks Sean Robinson, back from Newcastle Falcons, and Barney Maddison – starting a game for the first time in 10 months following a bad knee injury – continued to create opportunities.

With Ulster flanker Ali Birch, enjoying playing against his former club, also threatening, the Titans put together some of their best attacking rugby of the season.

Gaps in the Ravens’ defence appeared frequently as Rotherham exploited the weaknesses in a young Ulster side which contained several teenagers.

No-one was able to question the commitment or attitude of the Ravens, who suffered a serious blow as early as the sixth minute when scrum-half Connor Young hurt his neck.

Play stopped for seven minutes as Young received treatment before being taken off by stretcher and then driven to hospital in an ambulance.

Just as Rotherham defended effectively on the few occasions that Ulster seemed about to break through, they also refused to be complacent with a substantial lead of 38-3 by 55 minutes.

Swift counter-attacks produced additional tries just after the hour for left winger James Broadley and then, on 76 minutes, for team-mate on the right flank, Michael Keating.

With Barrett adding his seventh conversion, Rotherham had now compiled more than 50 points, but outclassed though unbowed Ulster were rewarded when sustained pressure brought late tries for No 8 Charles Butterworth and hooker Paul Jackson.

Rotherham Titans: Scanlon (J Davies 64) Broadley, Hayes, Harris, Keating, Barrett, A Davies (Mitchell 46), Hislop (Gadd 42), Matthews, Thiede (Macklin 45), Maddison (Thomas 64), Robinson, Birch (Argyle 52), Preece, Ryan.

Ulster Ravens: R Andrew, Owens, Stockdale, Arnold, Adair(Liddell 46), McMasters (Bingham 64), Young (Fullerton 6), Lutton (Ryan 46),J Andrew (Jackson 64), Ross, Raaymakers (Donnan 64),McComb,McComish, Butterworth.

Referee: C Evans (WRU).