As is the case with every first outing of the summer there was plenty of rust shown by both sides as they got to grips with match action as compared to pre-season training.
But as would be expected from the minimal squad turnover at Franklin’s Gardens, it was the Saints who showed the better cohesion, dominating much of the opening 20 minutes. Will Hooley and Dom Waldouck marshalled their troops, the back three of Jamie Elliott, Howard Packman and Josh Skelcey got the ball into their hands regularly, and there was a delightful break from Rory Hutchinson in midfield.
The Titans’ defence remained result, however, and for all their possession and territory Saints had nothing to show on the score board from the opening quarter.
That changed after 25 minutes when Hooley kicked to the corner, the forwards set up a maul and Teimana Harrison crashed over from close range. It was nothing more than the Saints deserved, but they were rocked four minutes later when Curtis Wilson broke superbly down the left touchline to the posts.
Six minutes after that the contest had been turned on its head. Rotherham became rampant, running in two more tries through James Broadley and Tom Cruse, and with James McKinney on target with all three conversions they suddenly had a healthy lead.
What Wilson could do, so could Packman, who was put away by Hooley after the fly half showed good awareness in the traffic to spin through the defence and find his full back. Hooley’s conversion brought the half-time score to 12-21, but it was the last action for the fly half as he was one of 11 changes made by the coaches at the break.
It took six minutes for them to have an impact, Jon Fisher’s power and off-load rewarded by Reece Marshall’s good hands and the try. Waldouck converted to bring Saints to a two-point deficit, but if Rotherham were rocked it did not show, and more lovely handling kept the ball alive for Joel Gill to score in the Shrubbery corner.
McKinney’s 100 percent record continued from the touchline, and as the game entered its final quarter Rotherham were in control on the score board.
However Alex Rieder’s yellow card de-powered the visitors’ scrum, and with eight minutes to play Saints took advantage, earning a penalty try. It was a clear-cut decision, with Titans pulling the set piece down and their scrum-half kicking the ball away from Fisher.
Hutchinson nailed the conversion from in front of the sticks, as he did after Christian Day crashed over from close range with three minutes left on the clock to seal the win.
SAINTS Packman; Elliott, Hutchinson, Waldouck, Skelcey; Hooley, A Day; E Waller, McMillan, Denman, Woolford, Craig, Dowson (c), Harrison, Dolan
Subs - Marshall, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Parkins, Onojaife, C Day, Clark, Conner, Fisher, Robinson, Olver, Stephenson, K Pisi
ROTHERHAM Scanlon; Broadley, Roberts, Davies, Wilson; McKinney, White; Hislop, Cruse, Tampin, Parker, Holmes (c), Morris, Preece, Rieder
Subs - Birch, Matthews, Thiede, Gadd, Argyle, Robinson, Williams, Ryan, Davies, Rath, Harris, Gill, Hayes, Barratt, McGaffin
25mins SAINTS Try Harrison 5-0
29mins ROTH Try Wilson Con McKinney 5-7
33mins ROTH Try Broadley Con McKinney 5-14
35mins ROTH Try Cruse Con McKinney 5-21
39mins SAINTS Try Packman Con Hooley 12-21
HALF-TIME SAINTS 12 ROTHERHAM 21
46mins SAINTS Try Marshall Con Waldouck 19-21
53mins ROTH Try Gill Con McKinney 19-28
67mins ROTH Yellow card Rieder
72mins SAINTS Try Penalty Con Hutchinson 26-28
77mins SAINTS Try C Day Con Hutchinson 33-28
FULL-TIME SAINTS 33 ROTHERHAM 28