When you are as down on your luck as Rotherham, nothing much goes right. Northampton rode theirs and while it is stretching credulity to say that Rotherham deserved to win an absorbing, if scrappy, affair at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday, with a little more good fortune the Titans could have secured their first Premiership win of what continues to be a torrid season.
Northampton will point to the fact that they had a raft of first-choice players missing but, as their head coach, Wayne Smith, conceded afterwards: "We had to get used to being without a lot of our best players during the World Cup, and we shall have to do without them while the Six Nations Championship is on. You have to play with what you've got."
Even so, Saints were still able to field Matt Dawson, Paul Grayson, Ben Cohen and Tom Smith, all of whom will expect to be on duty for their countries this coming weekend. More importantly, there was no Andrew Blowers or Budge Pountney to tip the balance in any 50-50 ball situation, or Steve Thompson to punch holes in midfield. Thompson, though, is likely to have recovered from a calf injury to take his place in the England squad for the away game against Italy.
It was a curious game, full of possibilities for Rotherham especially, and a crowd of 10,839 had every right to expect the quality of rugby would have been of a higher standard than it subsequently turned out.
In the first quarter, it was Rotherham who turned in the better performance as their forwards set about their work for Guy Easterby to score the opening try; this after Jon Benson and Shane Drahm had exchanged penalties. In scoring terms that is as far as it went for the Titans who, after Oriol Ripol's try and another Drahm penalty, were just three points adrift at the break. Then their luck ran out.
Having mounted a defence straight out of the Mafeking handbook, their South African lock, Bloues Volshcenk, was handed a yellow card for laying on the ball - though he took a fearful kicking from two or three Northampton players, any or all of whom could have joined him in the sin bin - and while he was doing his time, Cohen raced in for the decisive try which Drahm converted to seal the points.
There was still time for Rotherham to secure a bonus point, but Benson was adjudged to have been held up over the line, when even the Northampton players thought he had scored. Smith said: "We take our hats off to Rotherham. Defensively they played their hearts out." He wouldn't, though, be drawn on the luck issue.
Northampton: Tries Ripol, Cohen; Conversion Drahm; Penalties Drahm 2; Rotherham: Try Easterby; Penalty Benson.
Northampton: B Reihana (co-capt; P Grayson, 70)); O Ripol, C Hyndman, M Tucker (A Vilk, 76), B Cohen; S Drahm, M Dawson; T Smith, D Richmond (M Miles, 77), T Taumoepeau, M Lord, R Hunter (co-capt), M Connors, D Fox, G Seely.
Rotherham: B Stortoni; A Elliott (G Pieters, 62), J Pritchard, P Jones (M Umaga, h-t), M Wood; J Benson, G Easterby (capt); N Lloyd (R Olckers, 65), C Johnson (A Long, 65), C Noon (Olckers, 18-32), B Volschenk (D Tuiavii, 60), L Gross, L Greef, B MacLeod-Henderson, G Lewis (R Van der Merwe, 19)
Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol).Reuse content