Nottingham Outlaws recorded their first league win of the season at the fourth time of asking with an excellent 32-18 away victory against Lindley Swifts on Saturday. In a feisty encounter the Outlaws had to come from behind and hold their nerve at times but were thoroughly deserving of a win that sees move from the basement spot and give them a much needed boost in confidence.
The Outlaws went into the game with a reasonably settled side to the one that lost out against New Earswick last weekend. There were a few positional changes as Alex Whittle moved into the halves to share handling responsibilities with Brad Moss, Joe Harrison-Brown filled in at full back for the injured Adam Cunliffe and Coryn ward came back into the fray after four weeks out with injury. There were a number of late changes on the bench with Jimmy Goodwin coming back in for his first game of the season and Sam Handrews adding some oomph to the replacements.
Crucially player coach George Strachan was also able to name himself in the side after celebrating with brother Harold on the birth of his niece Annie Muriel Strachan, before dashing up the M1 and arriving just in time to pull on the number 9 jersey!
The Outlaws started the game in confident fashion, moving the ball across the pitch with confidence but some good early raids failed to deliver an opening score for the dominant visitors and the on-looking Outlaws faithful were already getting that deja vu feeling!
Indeed the script of recent weeks seemed to be repeating itself as early Outlaws pressure went un rewarded and they were quickly punished when on their first raid of note Jay senior crashed over from short range to put Lindley 6-0 ahead.
Despite the reversal the Outlaws continued to move the ball with plenty of pace and they levelled on the tenth minute when Oliver Dale made a great forty metre break into the Lindley red zone before offloading to Strachan who promptly dispatched the ball to Jack McLeish for a try and the twinkle-toed centre duly added the extras from wide out to level the scores at 6-6.
The match suddenly took an unexpected turn when a disputed decision saw Lindley reduced to twelve men for dissent and within minutes the Outlaws capitalised as Strachan gave a well timed short ball to Clark Squires who crashed over from short range to put the Outlaws 12-6 ahead.
Indeed the Outlaws finished the half on top and should have scored at least a couple more but they repeatedly failed to capitalise by dropping the ball early in the tackle count and they were eventually punished for their profligacy. Losing the ball twice in succession on the first tackle put their line under tremendous pressure and Cavern Longfield duly went over under the sticks to level at 12-12 and the teams went into the sheds with the scores even despite the Outlaws dominating play for much of the first stanza.
The coaching staff used the half time break to freshen up the side with Jamie Muggleton coming in at acting half to free up Strachan further out whilst Jimmy Goodwin made a welcome return into the centres.
The second half saw the Outlaws playing into a stiff breeze but in their first real attack they split the Lindley line when the elusive Jack McLeish sprinted through a gap, making forty metres before unloading to Ollie Bos and the young utility back swept in under the posts to put the Outlaws 18-12 ahead for the second time in the match. It was a lead they were destined to hold for the remainder of the game!
Stung by this reversal Lindley fought back strongly but some excellent Outlaws defence, led by Goulty, Harrison-Brown and Squires, saw them keep their line intact when in previous weeks they might have conceded.Then, having seen off the mini Lindley revival the Outlaws went back on the hunt for more try’s and from short range they somehow managed to offload in heavy traffic, releasing Jack McLeish who grabbed his second of the game before converting to put the Outlaws 24-12 ahead.
Once again the home side peppered the Outlaws line but they could not get through some stoic defence as the Outlaws battled to hang on and they stretched their lead to three scores as Jack McLeish slotted over a penalty from forty metres out to make it 26-12 in the Outlaws favour.
With twenty minutes left on the clock there was still plenty of time for a Lindley come back and the travelling supporters began to feel increasingly nervous when Scott Bradley scored for the home side to reduce the Outlaws lead to 26-18.
Clearly the next try was going to be crucial and thankfully it was the Outlaws that got it!
The move started from deep in the Outlaws half with a great yardage by Joe Goulty down the middle. Coryn ward looked like he might have got over but was held short. However the ball swang across the left of the pitch before reaching Jimmy Goodwin on the wing and the Yorkshire powerhouse celebrated his return to the cause will a great try that eased the pressure on the Outlaws. Jack McLeish notched the extras from the touchline to restore their three score lead and the match was won!
When the final whistle went there was a mixture of celebration and relief amongst the players and supporters as they digested a well earned win. Choosing a man of the match was relatively straight forward. Whilst all of the team played well Jack Mcleish deservedly took home the bubbly with 2 trys and a 100% conversion rate for an 18 point personal tally as the elusive centre had his best game in an Outlaws shirt so far!
After the match a much relieved Outlaws coach George Strachan was quick to praise his charges commenting “We’re certainly still a work in progress but it’s good to get back in the winners circle. We moved the ball really well at times and thats certainly something we’ll be looking to build on over the next few weeks. Jack ‘the Quiche’ McLeish and Joe Goulty were excellent on the right side for us and Alex Whittle led the team round the park with and without the ball.”
Whilst the Outlaws rightly celebrated their victory they know that far harder challenges await them in the coming weeks, starting with a tough home game against Bramley Buffaloes next weekend!