BIG MATCH PREVIEW - ROTHERHAM EARTH TITANS

 

by PETER WOODROOFE


EARTH TITANS v MOSELEY, National League Division 1, at Earth Arena, Clifton Lane, Saturday, November 25, 2006, KO 2.00 pm


Grim day…

The Moseley squad and travelling support journey to Clifton Lane, Rotherham on Saturday.

They will be very pleased they are not going to Millmoor, Rotherham United Association Football Club’s ground, where Rotherham played in 2002-3 in National 1 and defeated Moseley by a League club record of 102-3.

Better memories…
So with a change of surroundings, a more rugby type environment, there is no need for that memory to be re-ignited, but rather the memory of Moseley’s victory 16-10 there in January 1998 when Moseley were in administration.

DAN HARRIS scored Moseley’s try and MATT JONES converted, kicked two penalties and dropped a goal. And of course it resurrects memories of DARRAGH O’MAHONY’S silky running. Winger MARTIN DAWSON scored Rotherham’s two tries and, for once, SIMON BINNS did not score against Moseley!

In ancient days
Rotherham town is a place where history abounds. Founded in 937, it is 1069 years old and its 15th century church dominates All Saints Square, a pleasant pedestrianised spot. On the hill above the church and town lies Clifton Park, 56 acres of land and flowers amongst which stand pillars and stones from the nearby Roman settlement of Temple borough.

To the south of the park lies Clifton Lane and the home of Rotherham Rugby Football Club and up the hill from the ground lies Clifton Park Museum and Art Gallery where the history of Rotherham is recorded illustrating the role of the museum in preserving the local heritage.

A far cry from its later industrial history and the steel industry e.g. Park Gate Steel Works.

Travel warning
Please note the directions to Clifton Lane Sports Ground. They are complicated like everything else unless you know it! It is now of course called Earth Arena in deference to Rotherham’s sponsors Earth Mortgages with which Rotherham signed a sponsorship deal immediately on their return to National 1 from the Premiership in 2004-5.

Their sponsorship with Titan Electronics took place when they went into the Premiership for the second time in 2003-4 – hence the name with classical mythology allusions Earth Titans.

Warm welcome
The writer does not know what changes have been made to make Clifton Lane into an Arena, if any, but he remembers Clifton Lane as a very hospitable rugby club. There’s a clubhouse with sponsors’ facilities and a main clubroom with a large bar and refreshment counter which reflects typical Yorkshire hospitality, home-made steak and ale pies, etc at very reasonable prices and a very extensive menu.

The sponsors’ room has long glass windows, as does the whole front of the building and there is a conservatory in front with entertainment facilities, a good place to watch the game from the back of the goal.

There is a small covered stand, but at the time the writer was last there when Rotherham’s fortunes were on the up, you had to drag yourself away from the camaraderie at the bar early to get a seat. It was otherwise all open terracing on both sides. In short, it was a typical rugby club.

Ground share
It will be interesting to see what changes have been made, but the whole character of the ground would have to be changed to bring it up to Premiership criteria which would also include the move of Rotherham Town Cricket Club.

The cricket square is roped off by the boundary of the rugby pitch and in the corner on the opposite side to the stand is the cricket pavilion, but now that the cricket and rugby seasons are no longer clearly defined and infiltrate into each other, there are problems at both ends of the respective seasons. There is, however, an athletics stadium nearby, the adaptation of which has possibilities.

Young 'uns
Rotherham, founded in 1923, a young club by rugby standards, have achieved wonders in their climb up the League ladder since starting in North East One in 1987-88.

However, the last seven seasons have been topsy-turvy, two promotions, two relegations and three seasons in National 1, including one when they were denied promotion because Clifton Lane did not meet the criteria required by the Premiership.

They were rescued by supporters, Rotherham Council and local businesses after relegation from the Premiership in 2003-4. Stability was achieved with the Titans finishing 8th in 2004-5 and 4th last season behind NEC Harlequins, Bedford, Penzance and Newlyn, now Cornish Pirates.

In charge
Last season saw the arrival of new chief executive and head coach, South African ANDRE BESTER, formerly head coach of Bedford Harlequins and Ballymena. He was able to make 27 new signings in 2003-4 after many players had left the club since being relegated from the Premiership.

They achieved a very creditable 4th place, reflecting strongly on the very excellent methods of Bester and his coaches in blending a squad and engendering team spirit. They won 15 and drew one of their 26 games.

More turnover
Andre Bester overhauled his squad again this season with about 15 new signings to add to 21 players retained.

The Irish, Celtic influence is still there with new signings that include fly-half GARETH STEENSON from Dungannon, who is their leading points scorer this season with 95, winger BRYAN TUOHY from Shannon their leading try scorer with nine, centre BRENDAN BURKE from Leinster, centre BERNARD HENNESSY and scrum-half JAMIE BLACKWOOD, both from Watsonians.

In the pack, there is No. 8 MICHAEL McCORMISH from Ballymena and lock ERIC LUND from Sedgley Park and No 8. BARRY JACOBZ from Bradford and Bingley. The captain is flanker NEIL COCHRANE signed last season from Watsonians.

Cup encounter
Moseley and Earth Titans met last season at Billesley in the Powergen National Trophy in Round 6, the Titans winning 29-13 scoring tries by all three of their back row, SCOTT DONALD, now with Esher, and South Africans HENRIE FOURIE and No 8 JANNIE BORMAN, hooker NIGEL CONROY from Shannon and lock LOUIS McGOWAN from Belfast Harlequins. Full-back MIKE WHITEHEAD signed from London Welsh converted two.

PAUL COX scored a try for Moseley in the first half and ADAM CAVES in the second. OLLIE THOMAS kicked a first-half penalty.

After being caught cold early on giving the Titans a 10-point start Moseley gave a good account of themselves. The Titans were defeated by Exeter 23-8 in the quarter-final.

League duel
The two clubs met again in the opening match of this season, once again at Billesley. On that occasion, the Titans won 35-13, both sides having to combat the Billesley Blow, the wind howling straight down the pitch.

Moseley, with the wind at their backs, had a 13-7 half-time lead, thanks to a try by DAREN O’LEARY and a conversion and two penalties from OLLIE THOMAS.

The defining moment came when NEIL MASON was sin-binned after 35 minutes and just on half-time No 8 BARRY JACOBZ forced himself over close-in, with MIKE WHITEHEAD converting.

The lead was not enough, which was proved immediately after the interval when wingers SHOUAN SMITH and TOM ALLEN scored tries and full-back BRENDAN BURKE finished off a fine move going over unopposed from 20 metres out. WHITEHEAD converted all three tries. An inevitable penalty try was converted by GARY STEENSON.

Moseley had had their first lesson of what to expect in National 1. This in addition to have to cope with Africaans calls from a side that had a strong South African (and Irish) influence.

Handy placing
Earth Titans are lying 4th in National 1 after last week’s 34-32 win at Bedford. STEENSON contributed 14 points and kicked a late winning penalty. Flanker HENDRIC FOURIE scored two tries, No 8 MIKE McCORMISH one and there was also a penalty try,

Titans have won nine and lost three games, but have gained 11 bonus points from 11 games played.

Their defeats have been at home to Cornish Pirates and away to Plymouth Albion, two main promotion rivals, and away to Exeter Chiefs, with a losing bonus point in each. They will meet second-placed Leeds for the first time at the end of December.

Heads up
Moseley, in this period of playing top teams, must remain positive with optimism of better days to come when they play the semi-professional sides.

Last week’s 5-50 defeat by Plymouth Albion, who scored 40 points in the second half, was their heaviest of the season against a super-efficient squad whose only blemish was being reduced to 13 men at one stage.

Moseley had their chances, especially early on when they played well, but they are finding it difficult to maintain their standard when playing fully-professional sides. However, they must be ready to seize opportunities when they do come, as come they will. Perhaps on Saturday – who knows?

Toughie
Saturday’s visit to Clifton Lane will not be easy for Moseley. Memory tells the writer it is not an easy ground to play on, being not as wide as some and open-sided with not a lot of protection from the elements.

However, Yorkshire hospitality will abound – off the pitch at least!

 

Directions

Earth Arena, Clifton Lane, Rotherham S60 2SN

From the M1 - M1 exit 33 onto Rotherway, at the roundabout turn right onto A631 marked Bawtry. Go straight ahead at Whiston traffic lights onto the dual carriageway. At the next roundabout, turn left onto B6410 (Broom Lane) then left onto A6021 (Broom Road). In 1/2 mile there is a roundabout, turn right into Badsley Moor Lane. The clubhouse is the second entrance on right.

Matchday Parking
From the clubhouse entrance, take the next turning on the right (Badsley Street South). After 100 yards or so, bear left into the grounds of the Herringthorpe Pavilion. The car park is beyond the pavilion.

Half time challenge

The Earth Titans inaugural ‘half-time cross bar challenge’ will take place this Saturday as Moseley visit Rotherham.

Moseley supporters have been invited to participate in the event.

At half-time, 3 supporters plus a “celebrity supporter” from each team will be invited onto the pitch. Each contestant will be given 3 kicks at goal.

Anyone hitting the crossbar once wins £50, twice wins £100 and a hat-trick wins £500. The event will be compared by Chris Walker from Coronation Street. (Players must HIT the crossbar to win).

We have been asked to provide the names of 3 supporters (and a celebrity?!) who are going to take part, by Friday (24th).

If you would like to participate – email us info@moseleyrugby.co.uk including your name address and (preferably) mobile telephone number.

We’ll let the ‘lucky’ winners know by Friday.

Obviously you must be intending to go to the game and the lucky 3 (+ plus a celeb will meet at the Player’s Entrance to the pitch 5 minutes before half-time

It’s all just a bit of good fun to keep everyone entertained at half-time, but there’s the chance to win some real cash.

 

 

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