Plymouth Albion 22 Rotherham Titans 8: Titans’play-off hopes slump

Rotherham try scorer Jack Preece. Picture Scott Merrylees
Rotherham try scorer Jack Preece. Picture Scott Merrylees

A victory for Rotherham in this Saturday’s Championship game against Jersey at Clifton Lane has become even more urgent now that the Titans’ promotion campaign is in some trouble.

This poor performance against the league’s bottom club, who deservedly won by four tries to one at Brickfields, means Rotherham are now eight points behind Nottingham in fourth place.

So with nine Championship matches remaining, the challenge facing the Titans, who stay fifth on 32 points, is huge if they are to finish the season again in the top four and with that, the right to compete in the promotion play-offs.

In atrocious winter conditions, Albion’s forwards dominated and exploited Rotherham’s weakness against driving mauls from lineouts.

Tries on 15 and 36 minutes by forwards Rob Langley and Eoghan Grace, both from lineouts near Rotherham’s line, set up a lead of 10-3 at the interval.

Worse was to come 10 minutes into the second half as Rotherham conceded a third try extending Plymouth’s advantage to 15-3.

The Titans, though, did show some improvement in terms of possession and pressure. Flanker Jack Preece forced his way over on 55 minutes, a try which cut Albion’s lead to 15-8.

However, hopes of overcoming Plymouth’s control were spoilt when Rotherham lost control of the ball in promising positions.

The Titans were well placed at the end of 80 minutes to leave Brickfields with a losing bonus point, but in the fifth minute of injury time, Plymouth’s forwards struck again.

Rotherham’s pack faced sustained pressure from their opposite numbers who then for the third time scored from a lineout five metres from the Titans’ line.

The try by replacement forward Herbie Stupple completed a miserable outing by Rotherham whose performance upset coach Lee Blackett.

“In difficult conditions, we didn’t take advantage of the wind in the first half and we gave away too many penalties in our own half.

“Plymouth managed the conditions far better than we did and they scored three tries from driving mauls which was disappointing.

“If we are to reach the play-offs, we’ve a long way to go. We’ve got to win games and there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

An indication of how dissatisfied Blackett was with the display of the pack was his decision to bring off before half time forwards Alex Rieder and Ali Birch and replace them with Will Ryan and Max Argyle.

Rotherham Titans: Keating, Broadley, Hayes, Scanlon, Wilson, McKinney, White, Hislop, Cruse, Tampin, Parker, Holmes, Birch, Preece, Rieder.

Replacements: Argyle, Williams, Thiede, Morris, Ryan, Mitchell, Barrett.

Try: Preece. Penalty: McKinney.

Referee: Steve Lee.