Thirlby thrills Rotherham

Worcester 9 Rotherham 21

By Tony Wallace
Monday 20 January 2014 05:57
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Rotherham are just a couple of steps away from the end of the pathway to promotion and a return to the Premiership after defeating their nearest rivals, Worcester, to take a six-point lead at the top of National League One.

The home side have only themselves to blame for a catalogue of mistakes and turnovers whenever they had Rotherham on the rack. Worcester's free-scoring backs had enough possession to win two games but could make nothing of it.

Rotherham played to their strengths. Their defence was unbreachable, they fought like tigers for every 50-50 ball and denied Worcester enough room to make something of a game which turned their way with two splendid tries in the third quarter.

Rotherham deserve every moment of their celebration. They suffocated the life out of their hosts, who once again have nothing to show for the millions which have been poured into the club by their owner, Cecil Duckworth.

Worcester, it seems, have forever been in Rotherham's shadow. Twice third since they were promoted in 1998 and runners-up for the past two seasons, there may be plenty of respect between the teams but a mountain of enmity between the clubs and their owners.

Mike Yarlett, Rotherham's backer, was incensed when the Rugby Football Union mounted an inquiry into the Yorkshire club's affairs when it was alleged they had taken an illegal payment to keep them out of the Premiership last season. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument about facilities and criteria, Rotherham were denied promotion but expect to be exonerated by the RFU next month. However, Yarlett has always harboured the belief that it was Worcester in the shape of Duckworth who sparked the investigation in the first place.

Notwithstanding the off-field shenanigans, on the field we saw a terrific contest. The first half was as tight as a snare drum, three penalties by the visitors' Ramiro Pez to one by Tim Walsh separating the teams at the break.

Once Walsh's replacement, James Brown, opened the second half with a penalty, Rotherham pulled away. Their first try went to Mike Umaga, the second to Rob Thirlby who scooted in from 80 metres after Mark Gabey spilled the ball in contact. Game over.

Worcester: D Roke; N Ezulike (J Ogilvie-Bull, 18), D Officer, G Truman, C Garrard; T Walsh (J Brown, 41), W Swanepoel (capt); T Windo, C Hall, N Lyman (A Olver, 57), D Zaltzman (T Quinnell, 57), C Gillies, M Gabey, G Pfister (N Mason, 65), C Evans.

Rotherham: J Benson; J Keyter, J Ewens, M Umaga (M Oliver, 61), R Thirlby; R Pez, J Rauluni; N Lloyd (S Bunting, 71) C Johnson (capt), C Noon, D Cook, G Kenworthy (G Remant, 73), L Greef (A Tooala, 61), N Spence (R Earnshaw, 68), M Schmid.

Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol).

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