A local derby plus two matches against teams above you may not sound like the easiest end to a season, but Rotherham Titans flanker Jack Preece believes such fixtures will aid his team’s quest for a play-off place.
Fifth-placed Titans take on Doncaster Knights on Saturday, before a trip to fourth-placed Nottingham and a final day visit from third-placed London Scottish. But with Titans having suffered defeats to the Greene King IPA Championship’s bottom two Moseley and Plymouth Albion earlier this season, Preece feels tougher tests will bring out the best in his team.
“You concentrate more in a derby,” he said. “It’s easier to keep level-headed than in a cup game, for example, or one with not a lot riding on it. If you get caught messing around, someone is going to call you up on it.
“The directors came in to see us and said ‘make sure you play to 100% in this one’. It’s a game that means a lot to a lot of people.
“It’s a big game, a lot riding on it. We’ve got three tough games left to come. If we lose to Nottingham then we have got a big job on to get in the top four. But we’re happy to have these games, we’ve lost to Plymouth and Moseley, so we know anyone can beat anyone. You can’t afford to switch off for anyone.”
Preece helped himself to a hat-trick of tries before the Easter weekend break, as Rotherham saw off Moseley 32-26 – their third win in four games – to move a point behind Nottingham in the table.
Should Titans take fourth place their likely play-off semi-final opponents would be the seemingly imperious Bristol.
And despite a poor recent record against the West Country side, Preece fancies the Titans could spring a surprise having suffered a narrow 25-27 defeat to Bristol at Clifton Lane last month.
“We came so close to beating Bristol last time, so we have belief we can do it if it came to it,” added Preece.
“We’ve played them seven times in the last two seasons and we’ve got to beat them at some point!
“Everyone in the camp has great belief that we could win if we got them in the semi.”
*Formed in 2009, the Greene King IPA Championship is the second tier of professional rugby union in England. To keep up-to-date with all the latest news follow @ChampRugby on Twitter, or visit www.rfu.com/championship