McRae heroics send Rotherham packing

Rotherham 21 Gloucester 35
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The Independent Online

Duncan McRae took this engrossing game by the scruff of the neck and turned it in Gloucester's favour after a dreadful first half when almost everything they attempted went awry. Although defeat for Rotherham confirms their relegation, there was every prospect of a first Premiership win for the Titans until McRae orchestrated their second-half comeback.

And some comeback it was as Gloucester scored 35 points after the interval, while conceding only five to a try by Giscard Pieters, as the home side were blown away.

Rotherham opened strongly, their forwards bristling with intent, Chris Johnson leading a heavyweight charge which almost brought a try for Pieters. That narrow miss aside, Rotherham kept up the pressure and Jon Benson potted his first penalty.

Gloucester were then in some disarray. McRae's high tackle on Charlie Harrison warranted a yellow card, but somehow the Australian escaped. Two more Benson penalties preceded a Brad MacLeod-Henderson try following his interception of Terry Fanolua's long pass. When Benson converted to make it 16-0 at the break, there was more than a hint of an upset in the air.

But from then on the whole pattern of the game changed, which is just as well given Gloucester's desire to return to Twickenham to have another tilt at the Premiership final. Before then there is the small matter of the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Wasps at the Causeway Stadium, before the countdown to Twickenham starts in earnest.

Defeat at Millmoor yesterday would have dealt their play-off hopes a significant blow, especially as the rest of their programme looks more difficult than Northampton's, who are two points ahead of Gloucester in third, in the race for one of the three play-off places.

However, if McRae can maintain his shrewd influence when Gloucester get back to something like full strength, and the players on international duty return, we could be in for an intriguing final five weeks of the Premiership. McRae chipped in with 15 points - which included a towering drop goal from fully 45 metres - while Fanolua and James Forrester shared the tries with two apiece.

Rotherham: Tries MacLeod-Henderson, Pieters; Conversion Benson; Penalties Benson 3. Gloucester: Tries Fanolua 2, Forrester 2; Conversions McRae 3; Penalties McRae 2; Drop goal McRae.

Rotherham: B Stortoni; A Elliott, J Pritchard (P Jorgenson, 62), P Jones, G Pieters; J Benson, C Harrison; N Lloyd (R Olckers, 62), C Johnson (capt; A Long, h-t), C Noon, G Kenworthy (B Volschenk, 63), L Gross, D Tuiavii (G Lewis, h-t), N Spence (R van der Merwe, h-t), B MacLeod-Henderson.

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Foster, T Fanolua, R Todd, J Frape; D McRae, A Page; R Roncero, C Fortey, A Deacon (capt), M Cornwell (A Eustace, 71), A Brown, P Buxton, A Hazell, J Paramore (J Forrester, 44).

Referee: A Rowden (Berks).

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