Richmond 8 Rotherham Titans 18: Dazzling show by Will Thomas lifts Titans ahead of derby

Will Thomas. Photo by Glenn Ashley.
Will Thomas. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

One week before the second Yorkshire derby of the season, Rotherham’s morale has been boosted with a much needed win in the Championship against the league’s bottom club.

As coach Justin Burnell prepares his squad for Saturday’s clash at Clifton Lane against Yorkshire Carnegie, one of the favourites to contest the promotion play-offs, fellow Welshman Will Thomas produced a match winning display at the Athletic Ground.

The Titans’ new full back, signed in the summer from Welsh Premiership club Llandovery, dazzled the opposition by delivering 13 invaluable points which ended Rotherham’s run of consecutive defeats by Doncaster and London Scottish.

Thomas scored a try, set up another and also put over two penalties on seven and 63 minutes and a conversion in only his second Championship appearance.

The Welshman’s pace and ability to create openings was seen in last week’s defeat by London Scottish, but against Richmond this promise was turned into match winning reality just when it was needed the most.

On 35 minutes, Thomas raced to score under the posts after his try was laid on by a thrilling break by winger Jack Hayes and following the conversion of his own try, Rotherham now led 10-8.

But the best was to come seven minutes into the second half. A battling Richmond side kicked the ball towards the Rotherham defence. Thomas collected and ran up field as defenders failed to cope with his counter attack.

He then put through an intelligent kick that was picked up by fly half Will Goodwin who completed the move by scoring the Titans’ second try.

Rotherham, though, still had to defend effectively and overall their tackling, so weak against Doncaster and London Scottish, showed a big improvement.

The Titans continued to attack Richmond but failed to make the most of favourable scoring opportunities, a failure that needs putting right before the arrival of Yorkshire Carnegie this Saturday.

This inability to penetrate defences, particularly that of the bottom club, is a major worry when the week before Doncaster scored almost 60 points against Richmond.

But having made certain of his second Championship win in four games which takes Rotherham to sixth in the league on 10 points, Burnell’s decision to make seven changes following the London Scottish defeat was vindicated.

One major issue which Burnell must resolve going into this weekend’s derby is whether to recall fly half Will Robinson, arguably his best goal kicker and most experienced player.

After this urgently required victory, the Welsh coach was a relieved man.

“A win is a win and we’ll take that in the Championship which is very competitive. We took both our opportunities well to score both tries and we’ll take the fact that we have now got two wins and 10 points.

“To their credit, Richmond fought well and threw the kitchen sink at us in the first half.”

Rotherham Titans: Thomas, Henry, Owen, Barker, Hayes, Goodwin, Tresidder, Tom Williams, Maddison, Rees, Salmon, Hicks, Ramshaw, Oliver, Lawrence. Replacements:C.Foley, Toby Williams, Cole, Herriott, Tyas, Normandale, Walsh.

Scorers: Tries: Thomas, Goodwin. Conversion: Thomas. Penalties: Thomas 2.