Jersey had the better of an exciting game, scoring six tries to register an eventually comfortable bonus-point victory and keep their outside chance of a play-off place alive.
Doubles for both Tom Howe and James Freeman, and further scores by Nick Haining and Rich Lane, helped the Reds restore the five-point lead they'd held over sixth-placed Nottingham prior to this weekend's games, and keep their sights fixed on Bedford in fourth - the Blues beat Cornish Pirates 54-46 in a topsy-turvey encounter.
"It's difficult to keep a team on task at half-time when they've already achieved the bonus point," said Harvey Biljon. "Our levels dropped a little and the game was perhaps more exciting than it might have been, but we raised our game and there was good impact off the bench to finish the game.
"It's exciting to be in contention at this stage of the season - we've had a cup semi-final and now we are pushing hard for the top four
After Will Robinson's early penalty, Jersey hot the visitors with three tries in 10 minutes. A charging run by Pierce Phillips, with the ball taken on by Joe Buckle and then span wide, was finished by Rich Lane, although the winger sustained a hamstring injury and was forced off. Tom Howe claimed the second on the opposite wing and James Freeman claimed a high ball and raced 25 metres to finish.
Michael Keating's try got the Titans back into the game but Freeman claimed his second from a rolling maul before the break, and soon afterwards some great breakdown work by scrum-half Joel Dudley set up Buckle for a charge towards the line and a scoring pass to Nick Haining.
Jersey's set piece functioned well all afternoon, with some fine lineout skills, and a solid scrum in which Sean McCarthy was a strong presence for the first hour and Jake Woolmore made some good impact on his debut barely 48 hours after arriving on the Island.
The visitors fought back once again with two converted tries; replacement prop Lewis Thied went over from close range and then Keating claimed his second after linking neatly with Jack Hayes.
Rotherham hopes of drawing or even winning the game were eventually snuffed out in the closing stages. Firstly Aaron Penberthy struck a 46-metre penalty, the Jersey replacement's sixth successful kick in seven attempts, following a scrum offence by the visitors, and then in the last play when Gary Graham forced a turnover and Sami Fisilau launched a kick into space that bounced nicely for the onrushing Howe, whose pace had taken him clear of the defence and teed up a try to send the home fans home happy.
Titans' Head Coach Justin Burnell was pleased with his team's second-half display but bemoaned a high errors count.
"Unfortunately I'd say that four of their tries involved errors that we made, and that was disappointing, but we played with great energy and character to fight back into the game," he said. "I'm disappointed to come away with nothing and we have a massive game against Scottish to finish our season at home."
JERSEY: Adair; Howe, Evans, Robling, Lane (Penberthy 7); Cope, Dudley (Fisilau 52); McCarthy (Woolmore 68), Buckle (Garcia-Veiga 63), Kerrod (Herriott 63), Campbell, Phillips, Rae (c) (Graham 52), Freeman, Haining (Kolo'ofa'i 62).
ROTHERHAM: Goodwin; Keating, Gill (Owen 55), Barker, Hayes; Robinson, Davies (White 66); Williams (Cromie 55), Preece, Tampin (Thiede 49), Holmes (c) (Sinclair 6, Redfern 49), Salmon, Maddison, Birch (Edgson 49), Ryan.
REFEREE: Michael Hudson (RFU)
Man-of-the-match as chosen by match sponsor Nautilus Trust: Nick Haining (Jersey)
Half Time: 26-13
Tries: Lane 5, Howe 11, 81, Freeman 14, 33, Haining 46
Conversions: Penberthy 11, 14, 33, 81
Penalties: Penberthy 54, 75
Tries: Keating 18, 66, Thiede 60
Conversions: Robinson 18, 60, 66
Penalties: Robinson 2, 37
18 May 2023
DoR pays tribute to leaving players after title-winning season