Three former Rotherham players are expected to be in the Doncaster Knights’ side for the first South Yorkshire derby of the new Championship season at Clifton Lane tomorrow.
Experienced forwards Matt Challinor, Colin Quigley and Latu Makaafi enjoyed successful spells with the Titans before switching to their rivals and all three have contributed significantly to Doncaster’s promising start to the new league campaign.
The Castle Park side-after wins against Nottingham and Jersey and bonus points against London Welsh-have risen to third in the Championship table and are on 11 points, a much improved beginning to the season than at the same stage 12 months ago.
Rotherham, meanwhile, have also won two games against Ealing Trailfinders and Cornish Pirates, but they have not been as powerful as Doncaster in terms of securing bonus points and are currently seventh in the table on eight points.
If the Titans, who won both derbys last season, but only just by 23-21 and 26-25, are to exploit home advantage, they must be much more ruthless than they were against Yorkshire Carnegie a fortnight ago when they lost 21-11 at home in a disappointing display.
Coach Mark Jones, who praised his teams efforts at Cornish Pirates where they won 26-24-an outstanding result away from home-was nevertheless critical of some aspects describing the performance as ‘a mixed bag’.
While the Titans’ defence was solid for periods against the Pirates, it also conceded three tries- a fact that Doncaster will have noted-as Rotherham slipped from a controlling lead of 23-3 to a precarious advantage of only 26-24 in the second half.
A major threat to the Titans will come from Tongan flanker Makaafi who has scored five tries in only three Championship games; so the Rotherham back row which is likely to be Tom Cree, Max Argyle and Ali Birch, will have to be constantly vigilant tomorrow to stop Makaafi breaking through.
An interesting aspect of the South Yorkshire derby is that both sides are coached by Welshman, Jones and Clive Griffiths.
, who both played and coached their country and who also played for Llanelli.
Given that their preferred method of playing is similar..both Jones and Griffiths like to see the ball kept alive..an entertaining and close derby is in prospect.
Rotherham Titans from: Scanlon, J.Hayes, Keating,J. Davies,L.Hayes, Barker, Wilson, Goodwin, Barrett, White, Carter, A.Davies, Williams, C.Maddison, Harris, Tampin, Thiede, Oram, B.Maddison, Holmes, Argyle, Birch, Cree, Calladine, Preece, Owen, Hislop.