Rotherham Titans 20
Rotherham produced a fighting performance in a close contest at the Memorial Stadium only to come home without a losing bonus point.
Titans scored two second half tries by forward Jo Ellyatt and fly half James McKinney in front of a crowd of 4,500 to, but Bristol scored a late winning try.
Rotherham were behind by only 11-0 at half time, but Bristol’s forwards started to win more ball which enabled them to stretch their lead to 25-6 with just over an hour gone.
At this stage, Rotherham’s only points had come from the accurate goal kicking of full back Garry Law who struck two penalties.
However, the Titans’ replacements made a big difference and Rotherham began to make inroads into Bristol territory and to apply pressure in the right areas of the field.
The hard work brought its results because the Titans hit back on 67 minutes. Scrum half Charlie Mulchrone took a quick tap penalty and with replacement flanker Ellyatt in support, the forward crashed over for the team’s first try.
With Law converting, Bristol’s lead had been cut to 25-13, but the pressure was maintained and again Bristol were caught unaware as Rotherham fly half McKinney touched down for his second try in consecutive Championship games.
Law’s second conversion cut Bristol’s advantage even further to 25-20 and with time remaining, it appeared that Rotherham at least would achieve a losing bonus point.
However,just before the final whistle, Bristol made certain of claiming a maximum of five points by scoring a fourth try.
“The boys put in a huge shift and definitely deserved to get a bonus point for their hard work, but we made a couple of mistakes and were punished,” said Rotherham coach Alex Codling.
“I was again pleased with our work rate and our replacements did really well when they came on.
“Players like Ellyatt,Ted Stagg, Jamie Kilbane and Gareth Denman did the business but with a minute to go Bristol added the fourth which was sickening when we had done well to come back,” explained Rotherham coach Alex Codling.
Rotherham’s ninth league defeat in 16 games means they have dropped to eighth in the Championship table.
The Titans do not have a league game this week, but instead play Welsh club Aberavon in a postponed fixture in the British and Irish Cup.
As neither club has the chance of reaching the quarter finals, it is a dead rubber but the match at Clifton Lane will be used to prepare the Titans for the huge challenge of Championship leaders, Newcastle Falcons, who visit Clifton Lane a week on Saturday.
Rotherham Titans: Law, Sheridan, Blackett, Doneghan, Homan, Mckinney, Mulchrone, Gadd, Hannan, Davies, Thomas, Sanderson, Freeman, Kirwan, Rieder. Reps: Stagg, Kilbane, Denman, Ellyatt, Makaafi, Williams, Nonu.
Rotherham’s Championship rivals and neighbours gave themselves a lifeline in their bid to stave off relegation by shocking play-off contenders Leeds Carnegie 23-17 at Castle Park.