ROTHERHAM TITANS’ head coach Lee Blackett hopes his squad’s new-found experience will help cause a major shock in the Championship race for promotion.
They head to big-spending Bristol today for a play-offs semi-final first leg meeting with the star-studded hosts.
The South Yorkshire club, of course, faced the same opponents at this stage last season before losing out 39-25 over the two legs, Bristol then suffering defeat to London Welsh in the final.
The West County side have invested even more since, however, and strengthened significantly to the extent that three British Lions stars – Gavin Henson, Dwayne Peel and Ryan Jones – will all feature tomorrow.
But Rotherham have won six of their last seven league games to leave them positive they can still reach a maiden Championship final.
“The only loss in there was the two-point defeat to Bristol,” argued Blackett.
“Had we kicked the conversion in the final play of the game we would have drawn the game, which I think would have been a fair reflection of the match.
“Some teams under pressure sometimes fear losing; we’ve got to go in with no fear and to definitely not fear losing.
“So we’ll go there with a real attacking mentality and try and win the game.
“We know that won’t be easy as they’ve got a vastly experienced group of players.
“However, we’ve got to have a big focus on ourselves and we’ve proven time and time again that we can perform against Bristol, but unfortunately at this moment we’ve just not got over the line.
“We have to make sure on Saturday we do that and that’s something we’re excited about.
“If you look back 12 months to when we played them in the semi-final,
“I think their experience really told. Our lads are still very young, but they are getting more experienced and they now have that experience of being in a semi final and hopefully that will hold us in good stead this time around.”
Yorkshire Carnegie have signed scrum-half Joel Hodgson, 22, and former Scotland second-row Tom Ryder, 30 from Northampton Saints on one- and two-year deals respectively.