As most of our county’s leagues had their final pre-Christmas game last Saturday, I was a little concerned there’d be no games this weekend. Thankfully the national leagues were still in operation so there were a number of viewing options.
A positive weather forecast (for once) led me to choose a longer journey south, bringing rewards of a new venue for the season, Rotherham Titans, with a completely new (for me) team in opposition: Darlington Mowden Park.
It was only my second visit ever to Rotherham, my first having been a Championship match against Nottingham in March 2016. Though I’d seen neither team this season, there were a number of familiar faces in both. Former Doncaster Knights’ prop, Jack Bergmanas is now a Rotherham player, as are recent Yorkshire U20s champions, Zak Poole, Tom Allott, Will Dennis and Connor Field. It was good to see them all again, along with Matt Heaton (formerly Otley, also Canada) and Jake Brady (ex-Harrogate) in the Darlington squad.
For a time it looked as if the forecast was going to be completely wrong as rain poured down on the warm-ups and pre-kick off formalities. In the end it proved to be very accurate, the rain stopping at 2pm, exactly as predicted. As the game went through its initial phases, the teams looked evenly matched, exchanging early penalties.
However, the home side began to exert pressure and were rewarded with a try from Dan Leake, diving over on the left. I was quite close and fortunate to get a reasonable shot of his score. If the grass had been dry I’d have been lower for a better angle but had to be satisfied with a slightly elevated position on a stool. Mowden Park challenged throughout the game and were still very much in contention at half time, despite Titans notching up a second try from number 8, Seb Nagle-Taylor-Taylor.
Concern among home supporters was eased somewhat when Dan Leake scored again, this time with a long run through the centre early in the second forty. I was still sitting on the sidelines at this point so had some nice side-on shots of his run despite not being very well placed for the touch down itself.Victory was far from assured at that point; the Titans needed to withstand a good deal of Morden Park pressure before the final whistle sounded. A final score of 25-13 perhaps masks just how competitive the game was.
Still, a win is a win as they say, and this one makes five in a row for Rotherham, moving them up to fifth place in National League One. More significantly, it puts them within four points of leaders, Old Elthamians. Having endured the pain of relegation last season, this is a most encouraging recovery, bringing hope and optimism for the second half of this one. Well done and good luck to them.
You can see more pictures from the game here. This is ickledot’s final blog before Christmas, so my best wishes to you and yours for the coming festivities.