Drahm drums in the harsh realities

Rotherham 13 Northampton 42
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The many who supported Rotherham in their prolonged bid for a place in the Premiership and those who give voice to the campaign to retain automatic promotion and relegation must be having second thoughts, after the Titans slumped to their fourth successive defeat.

Rotherham can point with some justification to the inherent unfairness in the central funding which allocates twice as much to 10 of the other clubs in the Premiership. There must be something flawed about a system that gives last season's relegated side, Bristol, a greater share of the communal cash than promoted Rotherham.

Yet if Rotherham were expecting a level playing field they would never have moved in with Rotherham United at Millmoor, which has a distinct slope. Right from the start it was uphill for the Titans, figuratively and literally. They had to weather a storming start from Northampton, during which the home side were fortunate not to concede a try.

The Saints' forwards imposed themselves immediately, though all they had to show for their pressure was a penalty by the impressive No 10 Shane Drahm. Home centre Phil Jones tied the scores with the first of two penalties and, for a while, Rotherham gave a passable impression of making a game of it. But as their head coach Mike Schmid said: "Your defence can't go walkabout at this level. We were in the game at 13-6, though those two tries just before half-time really hurt us."

The first Northampton try came when hooker Dan Richmond was driven over in the 19th minute, but the roof really fell in on Rotherham when a dreamy defence allowed Saints to score those two tries in two minutes just before the break.

Jones and Drahm had traded penalties before Nick Beal powered over, and then the scrum-half, Johnny Howard, escaped as two defenders collided. Jones was helped off with a nasty looking leg injury while Howard raced 40 metres to make it 27-6.

From then on it was an exercise in damage limitation for Rotherham. They never gave up and fly-half Jason Strange scored a smashing try, but two more tries by centre Chris Hyndman and lock Rob Hunter meant that the Saints moved up the table to third, a point not lost on coach Wayne Smith.

"We showed a lot of character last week against Wasps," he said. "There are a lot of youngsters in our team, but this was our best performance of the season so far."

Rotherham: J Benson; A Elliott, J Pritchard, P Jones (P Jorgensen, 42), M Wood; J Strange, J Rauluni (C Harrison, 55); N Lloyd, C Johnson (capt; P Smyth, 75), S Bunting (C Loader, 55), D Cook (G Remnant, 75), L Greef, C Short, N Spence (R Earnshaw, 75), G Lewis

Northampton: N Beal; J Clarke (O Ripol, 50), C Hyndman, M Tucker, B Reihana; S Drahm (J Brooks, 65), J Howard (M Robinson, 66); B Sturgess (R Morris, 80), D Richmond (M Miles, 55), R Morris (C Budgen, 42), M Lord, R Hunter (C Budgen, 13-16), M Connors (G Seely, 40), D Fox, A Blowers (capt).

Referee: M Fox (Leics).