Match reaction: Rotherham Titans 22-34 Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 2 March 2013 – 3.00pm

Clifton Lane, Rotherham

RFU Championship #17

 

I’m at a total loss to explain yesterday’s match. For the first half an hour the Falcons were in total control, but then Rotherham took over and could probably count themselves unfortunate not to become the first team to beat us this season.

 

Four tries up after less than 30 minutes, the scoreline reading 0-28, some away fans were predicting a cricket score. But it didn’t work out like that and the storming start died off to allow the Titans to score 22 unanswered points, before two late Joel Hodgson penalties made the win safe.

 

It wasn’t as if we even kicked away too much possession wastefully, as happened at Leeds, for example. On a balmy sunny day the conditions could not be used as an excuse. For a lot of the second half we just couldn’t get the ball and were forced to defend for lengthy periods.

 

All that said, the Falcons played some nice stuff and dominated the concerning Yorkshire pack early on, though we were aided by Laku Makaafi being sent to the bin after just a few minutes for taking out Andrew Higgins in the air.

 

The first try saw a beautiful instant offload by Scott MacLeod on the far right, James Hudson scoring the opening try. I thought both second rows had excellent games yesterday, the lineout functioned very well and they both got through some good work.

 

Jamie Helleur also remains in solid form and made a fine break to score the second try. The fourth try was not a great one for the spectators, a penalty try coming following five minutes wasted by repeated scrums.

 

Rotherham’s first try came before the break and was controversial, with many believing the ball had not been grounded. But the score was given, and the two teams came out for the second half like the opposite of what they had been at kick-off.

 

I can only remember the Falcons having one try-scoring chance in the second half – replacement Alex Crockett steaming for the line and rolling over the white with a tackler, yet inexplicably failing to touch down. Following that Hodgson sent a big kick across the field but it was too far for Helleur to catch infield.

 

Taiasina Tu’ifua’s yellow card for a late tackle didn’t help things, although Rotherham’s last three points were all we conceded while down to 14 men.

 

So it was a strange one, I presume that privately Dean Richards and the coaches weren’t very happy but surely we need to get consistency back into the team before the play-offs.

 

Opinion was mixed about whether it would be good to lose a game before the playoffs. Personally, I think it’s best to keep going unbeaten, as if things do get hairy in a playoff second leg, we should still have confidence and the opposition may be wary that despite some tricky situations this season we still haven’t lost.

 

Interestingly though a bonus-point win over Bedford on Friday night will secure top spot for us, just two weeks after we made sure of a playoff place, since the Blues were beaten at home by Bristol yesterday. A point will do if Nottingham get nothing at home to Plymouth this afternoon.

 

Finally, Clifton Lane (or the Stafforce Stadium) is another nice little ground on the Championship Magical Mystery Tour. The seated stand is very small and the main bar was busy if you didn’t know that there was a little alternative one around the corner. The balcony outside the clubhouse made for a great spot from which to watch the game.

 

Somehow, I don’t think Meadow Lane will be quite the same.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

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