Rotherham Titans – 31/01/2016

34Doncaster Knights

24Rotherham Titans

3:15 pm · January 31, 2016

Knights 34 Titans 24

In front of a season high crowd and the Sky Sports cameras the Knights ended a run of seven games and five years of defeats to nearest rivals Rotherham Titans. In damp conditions the Knights driving line out proved too much for the Titans as the home set piece produced four out of the five Doncaster tries in an entertaining battle at Castle Park.

Man of the Match Ollie Stedman claimed his first hat-trick in Doncaster colours with Mat Clark and Latu Makaafi also dotting down as the Knights collected all five points to cement their second placed standing in the Greene King IPA Championship with eight rounds left to play.

The Knights started the better of the two sides and created a handful of early opportunities and it wasn’t long until they found a breakthrough. Nice handling released Dougie Flockhart down the right touchline before the winger passed inside to an oncoming Stedman, the number eight continued the drive before being halted deep in Titans territory. The move was quickly continued and fly half Dec Cusack went very close having carried the ball to the line, the next phase saw possession spun quickly out wide where Mat Clark battled through several tackles to touch down for the game’s opening score. Dougie Flockhart saw his conversion bounce back off the upright.

Doncaster remained the better of the two teams as the opening exchanges progressed however they were unable to put further points on the board and on the quarter hour mark the visitors opened their account. A surging drive carry a quickly take free kick from Max Argyle had the Knights retreating before an indiscretion at the ruck gave fly half Ross Thomas a simple shot at goal which he dispatched. Moments later the Titans were back on the attack, however with option left and right, centre Jordan Davies managed to find Dougie Flockhart with a pass intended for Jack Hayes on a move that would surely have otherwise ended in a try.

Whilst Glen Kenworthy and Knights lineout will, rightfully, gain many plaudits for the today’s win it was a post lineout drive that created the platform for the Titans first score. Having moved the ball into the Knights 22m it was quickly put wide and with several defenders ahead of him Paul Jarvis shot out of the line in a bid to disrupt an overlap. The full back was unable to stick his tackle and the ball made its way to Sean Scanlon who dived over in the corner, Thomas produced a fine conversion to give the Titans a 5-10 lead.

As the half hour mark approached the Knights, despite general being the better of the two teams, found themselves trailing and frustration became apparent as a number of forced offloads and dubious decision crept into play. One element of play that remained rock solid throughout was the lineout and it came up trumps once again before half time as the pack hurtled towards the Rotherham line having secured solid lineout ball. Titans flanker Tom Calladine left his guard post to add his weight to try and stop the maul which opened a gap for Ollie Stedman to dart through from close range. Flockhart ensured it was a seven point score with a conversion that put the Knights back in the lead.

The Knights finished the half brightly and could have been in again when Stedman broke from the back of another well-set lineout. The number eight sprinted towards the line and appeared to have grounded the ball under heavy pressure from former Knight Michael Keating. Referee Andrew Jackson consulted his television match official and on review it was determined that the ball had been spilled forward. The Knights did add further points before the break as Flockhart hit a penalty on 38 minutes after a phase of last-gasp defending on their own line eventually drew a foul out of the visitors.

From the restart Thomas almost immediately cancelled out Flockhart’s strike with a penalty of his own but the standoff found the upright, half time.

At 15-10 both sides were still very much in the fixture but it was Rotherham who looked the more determined at the start of the second half. A couple of early penalties quickly put the Titans in good field position before Michael Heaney managed to relieve some pressure with a clearance kick following a good turnover from Colin Quigley. From the resulting line out however replacement Lloyd Hayes broke through the centre of the Knights defensive line and broke up field. Paul Jarvis and Michael Heaney scrambled to defend but in support was winger Jack Hayes who collected and scored under the posts. Thomas converted and the Titans held the lead once more.

Rotherham had a chance to extend their lead moments later but, for the second time in the game, Thomas struck the post as the Knights defensive line conceded a penalty when caught offside.

Thankfully the home crowd did not need to wait much longer for the Knights to resume their rhythm. Having strung together a sequence of phases it was Rotherham’s turn to jump offside defensively and from very kickable range Doncaster turned down the opportunity for points with Cusack sticking the penalty to touch. Ball was secured by the Doncaster pack but the Titans chose to stand off the initial drive. Looking to sack the maul the Rotherham pack did eventually engage Knights forwards who managed to maneuvre possession backwards and drive on regardless. Stedman waited poised at the back of the drive and bundled himself forwards as soon as he caught glimpse of the whitewash. Flockhart produced a rare miss with the conversion meaning the Knights held a slender three point advantage.

Stedman completed his hat-trick just minutes later. Michael Heaney produced a superb touch-finding kick from deep in the Knights half and from the resulting lineout the Titans knocked on. A powerful drive from the Doncaster front row forced a penalty which Cusack stuck to touch. By this point I imagine you can guess what came next but in case you were wondering; lineout secured, solid driving maul, Oliver Stedman, try! Flockhart made no error this time, 27-17

With the game now in the final quarter it seemed almost certain the Knights would take the win but as is so often the case in fixtures between the Knights and Titans there was still plenty of drama to unfold. Rotherham Head Coach Mark Jones made a triple sub on the hour mark which included the introduction of loose head prop Toby Williams who made an immediate impression. Doncaster made a mess of the restart and produced an infringement at a ruck which allowed another replacement, fly-half James McKinney, to put his side in the corner. Having got very close to the try line from the lineout the Titans forwards looked to punch it in from short range, Williams appeared to be well-covered as he picked from the base of the ruck but managed creep over the whitewash. Referee Jackson went upstairs for confirmation and the decision was try, McKinney added the extras and it was game on.

More concern came for the Knights as they sustained back to back injuries in the space of a couple of minutes as Dec Cusack and Dougie Flockhart were forced from the field of play. They were replaced by Simon Humberstone and Brad Field with Field playing on the wing rather than in his usual position of scrum half; Latu Makaafi also joined the field of play in place of Alex Shaw. In more or less his first touch of the game Makaafi made his presence felt with a thundering hit following a Humberstone up and under, with numbers in support the Knights pack flooded the ruck and forced a penalty which was put to touch. From the lineout Latu asserted himself as commander at the back of the maul and reestablished himself at the top of the Championship try-scorer charts with a short range effort as the pack rumbled forward once again. Simon Humberstone’s successful conversion meant that the Knights had a two score advantage heading into the last ten minutes.

The Titans blew caution to the wind and could well have had a late score if it weren’t a superb lineout steal from Jon Phelan deep in his own 22m, however, as the clock ticked towards 80 minutes it was actually the Knights who looked more likely to add further points. Will Hurrell produce a perfectly timed shot on Sean Scanlon to force a turnover and in the ensuing phases the Knights got to within in an inch of a sixth try.

The Knights were awarded a scrum in the final play of the game as Rotherham looked to run the ball out of their own goal area only to be caught in contact; having secured the ball Heaney booted it deep into the DML stand to end the game.

The derby drought over, not onto the Captial to face as the quest for the play-offs continues.

Match Statistics

Doncaster: 15 Paul Jarvis, 14 Dougie Flockhart (Humberstone 64), 13 Mat Clark, 12 Andy Bulumakau, 11 Will Hurrell, 10 Declan Cusack (Field 64), 9 Michael Heaney, 1 Richard List (Sproston 73), 2 Ben Hunter (Stagg 76), 3 Colin Quigley (John 73), 4 Matt Challinor, 5 Jon Phelan, 6 Alex Shaw (Makaafi 63), 7 Michael Hills (Capt.), 8 Ollie Stedman.

Replacements: 16 Vili Veikoso, 17 Joe Sproston, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Tyler Hotson, 20 Latu Makaafi, 21 Simon Humberstone, 22 Brad Field.

Tries; Clark 10’, Stedman 27’, 50’ & 57’, Makaafi 68’,

Conv; Flockhart 27’, 57’ Humberstone 68’

Pens Flockhart 38’

Titans: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Michael Keating, 13 Jordan Davies, 12 Joe Barker (L Hayes 40), 11 Jack Hayes, 10 Ross Jones (McKinney 58), 9 Luke Carter, 1 Robin Hislop (Williams 58), 2 Darran Harris (Maddison 68), 3 Mark Tampin (Thiede 58), 4 Tom Holmes (Capt.), 5 Adam Sinclair (Ryan 51), 6 George Oram, 7 Tom Calladine (Cree 75), 8 Max Argyle.

Replacements: 16 Charlie Maddison, 17 Toby Williams, 18 Lewis Thiede, 19 Tim Cree, 20 Willie Ryan, 21 Lloyd Hayes, 22 James McKinney.

Tries; Scanlon 21’, J Hayes 44’, Williams 61’

Conv; Thomas 21’, 44’, McKinney 61’

Pen; Thomas 18’

Attendance: 3,287

Referee: Andrew Jackson

Image by Ickledot.

Our Partners