Rotherham Titans 26 Doncaster Knights 25: Titans back in top four and Knights stay up after derby thriller

James McKinney converts for the Titans. Photo: Glenn Ashley
James McKinney converts for the Titans. Photo: Glenn Ashley

Rotherham may well have beaten Doncaster for the second time this season in the Championship, and again only just, but the result of this tense derby at Clifton Lane had much wider consequences other than local bragging rights.

The Titans closest of wins took them back into fourth place on 53 points: only one point in front of rivals Nottingham who are fighting Rotherham for a place in the promotion play-offs.

The two clubs clash in Nottingham on Friday in what’s going to be a match of massive significance.

In the unlikely event that this must-win game for both sides ends in a draw, the fourth place in the play-offs would be decided in the final league contest, a week on Saturday; in Rotherham’s case at Abbeydale in Sheffield against London Scottish, who will finish third, and at Bedford, Nottingham’s last opponents.

As far as Doncaster are concerned, they are now guaranteed Championship rugby at Castle Park next season and having confirmed that status by earning two points at Clifton Lane, coach Clive Griffiths will soon reveal the names of the recruits he has lined up to strengthen the squad.

Before taking on Nottingham, Titans’ coach Lee Blackett will be addressing the issues that almost led to their downfall: penalties and a yellow card against prop Robin Hislop set up Doncaster to score four tries-all from driving mauls from line outs near Rotherham’s try line.

This indiscipline put Doncaster in front by 22-16, a lead they held until just after the hour. But the tries by forwards Matt Challinor,Ben Hunter and two by Michael Hills proved to be insufficient.

Rotherham’s forwards fought back with fresh vigour, contained the Knights and regained the initiative they held for a period in the first half.

The award of a second penalty try on 62 minutes, which was then converted, supplied Titans with a one point advantage(23-22), but a penalty by Dougie Flockhart regained the momentum for Doncaster who led 25-23.

The tension heightened on 70 minutes with a successful penalty by Rotherham’s replacement fly half Tom Barrett whose kick regained the lead again, so they were ahead by only 26-25 with just 10 minutes left.

The Titans’ forwards maintained the pressure deep in Doncaster’s 22 and this enabled them to hang on which meant that Rotherham were presented with the Yorkshire Regiment Trophy as the the county’s top club having beaten both Doncaster and Yorkshire Carnegie twice in the league.

To be the best side in Yorkshire makes me feel very proud, and all credit to the boys for winning all four league games against Donny and Carnegie,” said coach Lee Blackettt.

“It’s now in our hands whether we reach the last four. Nottingham is going to be a tough test.”

Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Wilson, Hayes, Davies, Keating, McKinney, White, Hislop, Dunn, Tampin,Thomas, Maddison, Argyle, Preece, Rieder. Replacements:Cruse, Williams, Thiede, Parker, Birch, Barrett, Cooke.

Doncaster Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart, Catchpole, Lewis, Roberts, Field, List, Hunter, Quigley, Hotson, Phelan, Challinor, Hills, Stedman. Replacements: Bergmanas, John, Foden, Thacker, Fosita, Armitage, Bravo.

Scorers: Rotherham tries: Two penalty tries. Conversions: Hayes, Barrett. Penalties: McKinney 3,Barrett. Doncaster tries: Challinor, Hunter, Hills 2.Conversion: Flockhart.Penalty:Flockhart.

Attendance: 1724.