Titans are enjoying life away from the pressure

Rotherham Titans head coach Joe Barker
Rotherham Titans head coach Joe Barker
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FOR some clubs, relegation can sound like a death knell but Rotherham Titans have taken a different approach to matters.

Times were so tough last year that they were demoted from the Championship before the end of March and finished with just two league wins.

This season has been the first in 22 years that they have been outside the top two divisions – the South Yorkshire club had Premiership spells in 2000-01 and 2003-04 – and it has not been plain sailing either.

However, crucially, having gone part-time for National League One, the enjoyment factor is back and not because they are steam-rolling teams like many relegated sides have in the past.

Indeed, after Saturday’s 46-24 loss at Rosslyn Park, player-coach Joe Barker’s side sit in fifth.

Yet, as long-serving director of rugby Martin Jenkinson explained, there is a joie de vivre around Clifton Lane once more.

“When you’re in the Championship everything is short-termism – everything is win the next game, stay in the league and all the rest of it,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“You seem to think there is no life beyond the top two divisions.

“Clearly there is. There’s a whole blooming game beyond it.

“It was ’96-97 when we got up there – 20-odd years ago – and to some degree this division has been a breath of fresh air.

“Some of us go back to the times where we’d play a team at home one year and then away the following one so, in any one given season, you’d play 30-odd teams.

“In the Championship, you can play the same team four, five, six times per year and it can suffer from fatigue.

“Going to new places or revisiting places you’ve not been for some time has brought a lot of enjoyment back into things.”

That said, Rotherham do want to get back into the Championship and have their eyes on an immediate return, chasing down that solitary promotion spot.

However, financially, it is not imperative that it is done this term.

“We were in a dark place at the end of last season,” added Jenkinson, whose side host Moseley on Saturday.

“We had no money, no players. But what we did have was an infrastructure and a backroom staff to fall back on as well as the best spectator base in Yorkshire.

“Yes, a blooming lot of work had to be done last summer to get a squad in place. But we’ve already had talks with the boys and said we want to now keep this squad together regardless of which league we’re in.

“Everything is tight for everyone everywhere in rugby. It’s never going to be anything different.

“But I’m a competitive animal and so are the boys in our team – we’re going out to win this thing. If we don’t, though, there’ll be life after this.”

Saturday’s result saw their opponents move into pole position but, intriguingly, just eight points separate the top six teams.

Rosslyn Park lead the way followed by Blackheath, Old Elthamians, Ampthill, Rotherham and Chinnor.

“It’s a very tight and a very competitive league,” continued Jenkinson, a point proved by Blackheath, Old Elthamians and Ampthill all losing to lower-ranked teams at the weekend.

“It’s probably what it’s been crying out for rather than one side dominating each year.

“Last year, Coventry walked it. The year before it was Hartpury.

“The weekend was a setback for us, no two ways about that. But there’s still heck of a lot of rugby to be played; all the top sides have still got each other to play and whilst it was 15-10 for long periods, our match could have gone either way. It was only at the end they ran tries in at the end.

“Rosslyn Park are a very good team but they have to go to Old Elthamians this week. It’s all very interesting and there’s so much that can happen yet.”

On Saturday, Titans started poorly and never recuperated despite a couple of attempts early in the second half.

Rosslyn Park raced into a 15-3 lead before the break and despite tries from scrum-half Connor Dever and winger Connor Field cutting the lead to five points, the hosts then proved ruthless.

Rosslyn Park scored three tries in 12 minutes, effectively ending the contest.