Sunshine, a pitch in great shape despite recent heavy rain, a chance for newly - promoted Rotherham Phoenix to continue their progress in Yorks. 3.
The scoreboard (a brilliant addition to Chaffer’s Field ) was somewhat flattering to the home side, for the visitors played some good rugby and were perhaps unlucky not to convert pressure & territory into more points, The home side did not always play in the right areas and only late in the first half did they really use a strong wind to their advantage, but when scoring opportunities occurred, they took them.
Rotherham commenced against the wind and the opening exchanges involved kick-chase, running back, losing ball and reverse kick-chase. An ‘Ensian penalty award enabled full back Will Cooper to find touch inside the opposition 22 and from good line out ball sustained pressure resulted in wing Connor Bateman crossing in the corner. The same player converted with a lovely kick and after only 5 minutes, the new board was in action. 7 points to nil glowed clearly. Both teams gave away penalties and ‘Ensians were lucky when the visitors missed an easy one on the 10 - minute mark. The home side lost second row Ben Smith to a head injury and more infringements from both teams made play very much to-&-fro. After 25 minutes Rotherham paid the penalty for transgressing again and Bateman converted to bring the score to 10-0. The visitors were playing some good rugby, but ‘Ensians gained a foothold and an on-the-burst break saw Cooper cross the try line, with Bateman coolly adding the extras. 17-0 on half hour.
The Old Boys looked comfortable ball in hand and were beginning to use the wind as Rotherham found difficulty making ground against it. With good running though, they put themselves in the home side’s 22 and won a penalty, only to kick the ball dead when trying to find a line out close to the corner. ‘Ensians quickly made their way back into the opposition half and a from a lovely move involving a wrap-around pass, Bateman had his second try, which of course he converted! The break followed with the visitors somewhat unjustly trailing by 24 point to nil, but with the wind to their backs in the second half.
Just 2 minutes after the restart, ‘Ensians took a tap penalty, managed to concede a turnover and Rotherham crossed the line wide out. A beautiful conversion put the visitors in lights at 24-7. They came back again after 15 minutes and an unconverted try put them at 24-12, but another penalty by Bateman put the hosts 27-12 ahead with the last quarter of the match left. The strong wind dropped for a while, but returned to give the visitors problems and they lost two players to yellow cards due probably to frustration and over eagerness. Luke Cowdell always impresses with strong running, Ollie Eaves’ left foot is an asset in relieving pressure and skipper Sam Featherstone soared high in the line out. In the dying minutes Rob Lofthouse showed a real turn of speed, leaving Rotherham’s defence in his wake to score near the corner. The rain had started, the light was closing, but Connor Bateman completed his immaculate from-the-tee kicking afternoon with a fine conversion.
Sitting with the opposition coaches and supporters this week was interesting and often amusing. In the clubhouse they felt that the official had not always been consistent and perhaps they had a point. However, they saw things through Rotherham eyes and that is the way of it. We enjoyed a convivial pint!