Simpson's try provides Rotherham with first victory

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At the eighth attempt, the Zurich Premiership debutants and tailenders Rotherham have at last opened their account for the season. But the Yorkshire club had to battle back from a 15-6 half-time deficit to edge past London Irish 19-18. Their winning score, which came just 10 minutes from the end, was a try by the former Bath wing Nigel Simpson, converted by Mike Umaga who had earlier kicked four penalties. Paul Sackey and Kevin Ellis crossed for the Exiles and Jarrod Cunningham, who later went off with a leg injury, slotted a conversion and two penalties.

At the eighth attempt, the Zurich Premiership debutants and tailenders Rotherham have at last opened their account for the season. But the Yorkshire club had to battle back from a 15-6 half-time deficit to edge past London Irish 19-18. Their winning score, which came just 10 minutes from the end, was a try by the former Bath wing Nigel Simpson, converted by Mike Umaga who had earlier kicked four penalties. Paul Sackey and Kevin Ellis crossed for the Exiles and Jarrod Cunningham, who later went off with a leg injury, slotted a conversion and two penalties.

Rotherham were further boosted by the news that the RFU is prepared to settle the issue of promotion and relegation, with or without the approval of its bête noire, Cecil Duckworth. The owner of Worcester and chairman of National League One (formerly the Second Division) has prevented the smooth passage of the Rob Andrew plan by insisting on automatic promotion to the Premiership plus a play-off.

English First Division rugby are offering a play-off between the champions of the second tier and the bottom club in the Premiership although from next season they say the team that finishes 12th two years running would be relegated. "It is a sop that means nothing," Duckworth said. "We fight on."

After meeting with the RFU's top brass, he reported back to National League One who unanimously rejected the latest overture. Duckworth raised the matter before the RFU council on Friday. "The most important issue in English rugby wasn't even on the agenda," he said. "Can you believe it? I'm not going to let them keep the lid on this."

Budge Rogers, the RFU president, refused to take a vote at the council meeting. "He was asked six times but refused to listen to the members," Duckworth said. "The RFU hierarchy have performed a massive U-turn in defiance of the wishes of a huge majority. I can't work it out." However, Francis Baron, the RFU's chief executive, said: "We've worked hard and held many meetings, but we must now try to sign an agreement with EFDR."

Duckworth's action is delaying payments to the Premiership clubs, at present owed £600,000 each by the RFU, and he is threatening to take the case to court or the Office of Fair Trading. "We won an overwhelming majority at the RFU AGM to keep promotion and relegation, but for the sake of expediency people are now prepared to sacrifice the Second Division and the 2,000 clubs below that." For Duckworth, it is likely to end in tears - unless, of course, Worcester win the division and then a play-off. They stayed on course for that target yesterday with their fourth, though least convincing victory of the season - by 31-25 at home to Bedford. They head the table by five points from Exeter, who hammered Otley 56-17, and by six from their likeliest rivals, Leeds, who scraped to 19-16 success over Moseley.

In the Welsh/Scottish League Premier Division, Swansea and Neath closed the gap on the leaders with emphatic victories. Shaun Payne ran in a hat-trick of tries and Matthew Robinson weighed in with a further two as Swansea won 55-6 at Ebbw Vale. And the Wales wing Shane Williams, playing at full-back, helped himself to 28 points as Neath thrashed Cross Keys 73-22. Kati Tuipulotu and Gareth Morris each claimed three tries as the bottom club crashed to their seventh defeat of the season.

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