Nonu sins for­given as Ti­tans shock the lead­ers

As brother chases World Cup glory with the All Blacks, Rother­ham’s Kiwi proves cru­cial to their cause

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - Sport rugbyunion - Nick Westby at Clifton Lane nick.westby@ypn.co.uk Rother­ham Ti­tans: Hamil­ton, Monahan, God­frey, Nonu, Ho­man, Law, Rhodes (Wil­liams 66); Kil­bane, Stagg (Baines 66), O’don­nell (Hooper 80), Neale (Grif­fiths 59), Mad­di­son (Dickinson 59), Copeland, Dougall, Ta

to be a top side, we have to earn it.” WHILE Ma’a Nonu at­tempts to help New Zealand lift the World Cup on home soil at the bot­tom end of the world, the goal of his el­der brother Pale­poi is by no means as glam­orous but just as press­ing.

For af­ter three keenly-fought con­tests in which Rother­ham Ti­tans had shaded one match and been edged out in two oth­ers, Pale­poi Nonu’s new side had still to make any em­phatic state­ment about their cre­den­tials in the RFU Cham­pi­onship.

Even that sole win over Leeds Carnegie had come against a side that af­ter the first month of the cam­paign are prov­ing a pale im­i­ta­tion of their former Pre­mier­ship selves.

But on Satur­day, Rother­ham an­nounced them­selves as cred­i­ble con­tenders in what is shap­ing up to be a wide open league with a rous­ing sec­ond-half fight­back to end the only re­main­ing 100 per cent win­ning record in the divi­sion.

“It’s a huge scalp,” said Pale­poi Nonu, 32, whose sin-bin­ning in the first half al­lowed Bed­ford to open a 13-point lead be­fore his early score in the sec­ond sparked a four-try come­back.

“Bed­ford are prob­a­bly favourites to take the ti­tle this year, but we went out and tried to prove that we’ve got the goods.”

In­deed they did, and how Nonu’s younger, more fa­mous brother, would have been proud.

“The All Blacks had a good win against France in the morn­ing and it was great to make it a dou­ble,” said Ti­tans cen­tre Pale­poi, who was play­ing National One rugby at Launce­s­ton last sea­son.

“It’s been great get­ting up in a morn­ing and watch­ing the World Cup, but even if we get to the fi­nal, I’ll be here on Rother­ham duty.”

How the Ti­tans need their bull­doz­ing cen­tre, their wreck­ing ball of a Pa­cific Is­land No 8 Semisi Taulava and their un­err­ingly ac­cu­rate fly-half Garry Law.

All three were sum­mer re­cruits by head coach An­dre Bester, who made 22 changes to his squad dur­ing the close sea­son.

Taulava scored two tries af­ter Nonu’s first as Rother­ham ral­lied from 22-9 and then 32-23 adrift to steal the un­like­li­est of vic­to­ries that was not even sealed un­til Shane Monahan’s ram­page down the right wing in stop­page time.

Law’s touch­line con­ver­sion was his 20th point of the match and he never missed a dead­ball kick in 80 breath­less min­utes.

He was lucky to stay on the field, though, in the first half af­ter a petu­lant kick at an op­po­nent.

If ref­eree An­drew Tay­lor­son had seen it, Rother­ham could have been in deep trou­ble.

For, af­ter Law kicked three penal­ties to keep the hosts in touch af­ter former Ti­tan Neil Cochrane – one of five former Clifton Lan­ers in the Blues side – had scored an early try, Nonu was sin-binned for not rolling away.

Wing David Vin­cent scored two tries in his ab­sence as Bed­ford hinted at ex­tend­ing their un­beaten start to the sea­son.

“I thought I’d let the team down,” said Nonu. “I thought we were in for a hard day af­ter that but credit to the boys, they hung in there and got the win in the end.”

Bester’s call for more dis­ci­pline in the sec­ond half was heeded as Rother­ham con­ceded only one more penalty in a re­fresh­ingly en­er­getic at­tack­ing per­for­mance.

Matthew Rhodes peeled off the back of a scrum to feed Nonu from five me­tres be­fore Taulava twice went over fol­low­ing ex­cel­lent work from the Rother­ham pack, who stole li­ne­outs and turned scrums at will.

I thought I’d let the team down and thought we were in for a hard day.

Pale­poi Nonu, re­flect­ing on what could have been a costly yel­low card.

Jamie Len­nard, Bed­ford’s former Ti­tan and Don­caster fly­half, threat­ened to spoil the party with a con­ver­sion to Hen­dre Sch­midt’s 61st-minute try and a drop goal.

But Monahan com­pleted the five-point haul with his gal­lant run down the wing af­ter yet more good work from the out­stand­ing Taulava, who said point­edly af­ter­wards: “We are not the best team in the league but this is a step­ping stone.

“There are still a lot of things to work on. But this is a way to show ev­ery­one what we are try­ing to build here.”

For Bester, the task now is to in­stil the be­lief in his charges that they can be as good away from home as they are at Clifton Lane.

Two ex­cel­lent wins on the tops of Rother­ham have been can­celled out by dis­ap­point­ing de­feats at Lon­don Scot­tish and Ply­mouth.

A daunt­ing trip to Not­ting­ham on Fri­day night of­fers the chance to end that sti­fling sym­me­try.

“We’ll only be as good as our per­for­mance in the Not­ting­ham game and we’ll start from scratch again this week,” said the South African, in the sec­ond sea­son of his sec­ond spell at the club.

“The po­ten­tial in this squad is mas­sive. All that we need to do is look at our­selves. We’re not into mak­ing state­ments, but if we want

PIC­TURES: CHRIS LAW­TON.

CHARGE: Ti­tans’ Semisi Taulava pushes Ali Price to the ground on his way to a try. In­set, Pale­poi Nanu.

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