Rotherham Titans 28 Fylde RFC 13: Defeat sees Fylde lose top spot in National Two North
Fylde’s wait for a first win against Rotherham continues after losing at Clifton Lane on Saturday.
Having started the day top of National Two North, they made the trip looking for a maiden victory at the seventh attempt.
They would have hoped for dry conditions in which to demonstrate their dynamic running game against a Rotherham side with a rather different style and a huge pack of forwards.
As the coaches and players opened their curtains in the morning, they would have seen that such hopes were not to be realised as the rain and cold set in.
The South Yorkshire side would have rubbed their hands in the anticipation of dismantling the substantially lighter and younger Fylde pack with an average age of 22 years.
It didn’t quite work out like this, and at the final whistle, the scoreline didn’t reflect a titanic battle in horrible conditions.
The Titans well deserved their victory but the Fylde squad put in a good performance, especially in defence, to give them heart in the coming weeks.
The Titans set out an early marker by pressuring the visitors and driving them back inside their 22-metre line.
Rotherham dominated the early scrums and won penalties for their efforts, one of which was converted by Jonny West on two minutes for a 3-0 lead.
Another scrum penalty minutes later gave West another kicking chance but it drifted wide in the wind.
The home half-backs were skilled tactical kickers and former Doncaster Knights scrum-half Sam Pocklington used the box kick cleverly, especially in the second half.
However, in the 19th minute, a looser kick downfield dropped into the hands of Fylde’s Tom Carleton.
He broke the initial line of tacklers and linked up with Greg Smith.
The latter then released Henry Hadfield to race through for a fine try, converting for a 7-3 lead.
The Fylde scrummage began to settle and the string of penalties dried up somewhat, though the battle between the front rows illustrated the squads’ gap in experience.
The Titans’ tight-head prop was Colin Quigley, a veteran of more than a decade of Championship rugby, and he was up against Fylde’s Zach Barrow with four National Two appearances behind him.
The contest on the other side of the scrum was equally tasty with former England U18 prop Charlie Capps up against another Fylde’s youngster, Matt Ashcroft.
It was far from one-way traffic as Fylde looked for opportunities to run the ball.
On the half-hour, a kick through the Titans’ defence was dangerous but just rolled dead before a chasing Fylde player was able to reach it.
From the subsequent re-start, Fylde offended in a ruck and West reduced the deficit with his second penalty for a 7-6 scoreline.
Smith sent another penalty off target as the half turned into an arm wrestle with the score staying the same heading into half-time.
Early in the second half, a Fylde attack resulted in a home player killing the ball at a ruck, Smith kicking the ensuing penalty.
On 50 minutes, Fylde conceded a penalty and West kicked for the corner.
There was a degree of inevitability about the outcome as a clean lineout take led to a powerful driving maul, which ended with Callum Bustin claiming the try.
West kicked the conversion and Rotherham were ahead at 13-10.
The home side was then reduced to 14 men when Tom Grimes was taken out in the air by George Tucker, who was yellow-carded for the illegal challenge.
Fylde struggled to take advantage of their extra man and the Titans extended their lead in the 62nd minute with another West penalty.
Smith responded three minutes later with a long-range penalty from just inside his own half clearing the crossbar to leave Fylde 16-13 behind,
The crucial score went to Rotherham in the 71st minute when another Fylde offence led to a kick to the corner.
The Titans’ lineout drive was powerful with Rikki Stout the tryscorer, and while West missed the conversion, his side was more than one score in front at 21-13.
As Fylde threw everything into trying to get a losing bonus point at least, they conceded a third try when Bustin powered his way over in the 79th minute and West converted to complete the scoring.
With the top of National Two North very congested, defeat meant Fylde slipped from top to fifth and Rotherham took over at the summit as only two points separate the leading six clubs.
Fylde look forward to getting back on their horse for the visit of old friends and rivals Wharfedale on Saturday (3pm).
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