London Scottish 21 Rotherham Titans 16: Rotherham need killer instinct to get back in play-off frame

James McKinney was on target, but Rotherham Titans slipped to defeat at London Scottish
James McKinney was on target, but Rotherham Titans slipped to defeat at London Scottish
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ROTHERHAM TITANS ended the halfway stage of the league programme on the cruellest of notes with an unfortunate defeat, the fifth in 11 games, at the Athletic Ground.

Not only did the Titans lose a contest they appeared to be in control of, to make matters worse they dropped a place in the Championship and are now seventh.

If they are to appear in the promotion play-offs for the third season running, a ruthless killer-instinct, not seen yet, must develop.

Rotherham, defending solidly against a London Scottish side repeatedly wasting scoring opportunities, had a win in their grasp and were far more competitive than in the previous match against Jersey.

A try on seven minutes by flanker Barney Maddison illustrated the aggression of the pack and a conversion and two penalties by fly-half James McKinney, starting his first Championship game for more than six months, in the 34th and 52nd minutes set up a lead of 13-7.

Indeed, with Rotherham tackling so ferociously and Scottish continuing to reject the option of kicking penalties and failing to take try-scoring chances on their opponents’ line, the Titans held this lead for over 20 minutes.

Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the outcome changed rapidly within the space of two brutal minutes.

A clearance kick by scrum-half Andy Davies was not followed up, enabling Scottish to counter-attack.

Their forwards moved towards Rotherham’s line and eventually the ball was spread across the field and with the Titans’ defence stretched beyond repair, winger Drew Locke scored his second try.

The conversion by full-back Peter Lydon, Scottish’s most dangerous attacking player, put his team one point in front at 14-13 on 73 minutes.

If that jolt was bad enough, the next blow, within little more than 60 seconds, was crippling.

From the re-start, Scottish put up a high ball towards the Rotherham touchline, a ball that arguably should have been caught by McKinney. Instead of challenging, the Ulsterman chose to trap the ball; in a split-second, it bounced unkindly and was gathered by centre Robbie Fergusson, who shot through and then passed inside to fly-half Oliver Grove to score between the posts.

Lydon’s conversion stretched Scottish’s advantage to 21-13, a lead that had seemed unimaginable and undeserved.

Rotherham, for all their commitment, were now facing the likelihood of leaving London without a bonus point but this fluctuating encounter was far from over.

The Titans counter-attacked and forced another penalty which was kicked by McKinney, making amends, to cut the lead to 21-16 and just when it looked as if Rotherham were certain of a bonus point, they put that in jeopardy in stoppage time.

Fortunately for them, Lydon missed the points and in the two minutes remaining, Rotherham, showing character and the right attitude that had been on display throughout, attacked again towards the Scottish line, but despite the efforts of the pack and wingers Ben Rath and Curtis Wilson, hopes of a fairytale win at the death were not fulfilled.

Rotherham coach Mark Jones reflected: “I was pleased with the way we bounced back from the Jersey defeat and we got something out of the game which you’ve got to be positive about, but the reason why we are so frustrated is that we could have got so much more.

“We used the ball quite well and defended tremendously well for long periods, but we got an unlucky bounce. However, if the ball is catchable, it’s as simple as that.

“We moved a good London Scottish team around the pitch, but were inaccurate in key moments in the second half.”

London Scottish: Lydon, Earle, Fergusson, Jackson(Morris 56),Locke, Grove, Horne, Gibbons(Schonert 53), Kwasnicki (Cherry 53), Shields, Cannon (Carrick-Smith 60), Patrick (Bartle 77), Bright, Walker, Clarke.

Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Rath, Hayes, Barker, Wilson, McKinney, Davies, Hislop, C Maddison, Tampin (Thiede 74), Holmes, Salmon, B Maddison, Cree, Argyle.

Referee: D Richards (RFU).