Nottingham Outlaws entertained Beverley in a Yorkshire League Premier tie at Highfields on Saturday. Despite matching their powerful opponents for long periods they were always chasing the game and finally succumbed to a 24-14 defeat. The loss sees the Outlaws slip down a couple of notches into ninth place in what is turning out to be a highly competitive division.
The Outlaws went into the game with no fewer than eight changes to the side that lost at Sharlston the week before. The inclusion of Nathan Hill and Andy Musvaburi were the main changes in the backs whilst Tom Howley, Ali Waring and Alex Wright all came in to the new-look pack.
The team was led around the park by yet another half back pairing as Mitch O’Brien teamed up with Adam Cunliffe for the sixth combination in as many games.
The match started with the Outlaws playing with a strong wind at their backs. However they were immediately on the back foot and in their very first attack Beverley should have scored as they engineered an overlap, only to spill the ball with the line at their mercy.
Less than two minutes later the Outlaws defensive frailties were once again exposed as the fast-moving Beverley attack repeated the move and this time they made no mistake as Ben Naylor opened the scoring to put the visitors ahead 4-0 after five minutes of play.
Despite the poor start the Outlaws re-gathered their composure and started to make some good yardage. However a well organised Beverley defence managed to keep the Outlaws at bay and the home team continued to take little advantage from the prevailing elements.
After twenty five minutes the Outlaws had only managed to get into the Beverley red zone on a couple of occasions but they finally opened their account after back to back sets saw them put some real pressure on the Beverley line and they opened their account as Adam Cunliffe brought the Outlaws level at 4-4.
The Outlaws score seemed to settle the home nerves and they started to enjoy much more of the ball and field position. However they lacked the cutting edge needed to prise open the Beverley defence and several promising situations fizzled out with nothing to show.
Having come up scoreless after ten minutes of dominant play the Outlaws were made to pay in clinical fashion as Alex Calvert once again exposed the Outlaws defensive frailties down their right hand side to restore the visitors lead at 8-4.
The Beverley score seemed to shock the Outlaw into action and they roared back into life with probably the best try of the game. Nathan Hill broke the Beverley line with a surging run from full back and on the next play Paul Calland sent the ball wide and three passes later Andy Musvaburi powered over in the corner to level the game at 8-8.
As the half came to a close the Outlaws gave away yet another soft penalty, something of a feature in recent games and with the clock ticking down Lewis Campion slotted the ball over to put Beverley 10-8 ahead at the end of the first stanza.
During the half time break the coaching staff re-jigged the front six with Joe Barton and youngster Chris Rudkin coming on to add some vim to a pack that would now face a stiff test playing into the elements.
The second half started badly for the Outlaws when a seemingly innocuous looking kick bounced wickedly in the Outlaws in-goal area and as the home side hesitated Billy Riby pounced for a try out of nothing that stretched the Beverley lead to two scores at 16-8.
Stung by this reversal the Outlaws roared back up the pitch, winning back to back sets and looked ready to pounce only to knock the ball on with their very first tackle!
The Outlaws were soon back under the cosh and they should have fallen further behind as the visitors dropped the ball again with the line at their mercy!
The Outlaws made the most of their respite and in the very next set big Tom Howley broke through the Beverley line before unloading to Andy Musvaburi who powered down the wing for his second try of the game. Calland added the extras and at 14-16 the Outlaws were back within two points of the visitors.
With thirty minutes left to play the game was very much in the balance and the next try was crucial. Unfortunately for the home fans it was Beverley that got it.
Having coped with a Beverley attack the Outlaws fielded the kick on the edge of their twenty but a wild pass out of the tackle saw the ball go straight to Beverley player and two tackles later the Beverley lead stretched out to 20-14 as Alex Calvert grabbed his second try of the game.
The Outlaws looked like they would strike back immediately when they broke down the left hand side but Andy Musvaburi just failed to take a difficult pass that would have given the youngster a hat trick!
As the game entered the final quarter the visitors used the elements to their advantage, kicking early in the tackle count, starving the Outlaws of field position such that they could not raise any sort of effective attacking platform.
Indeed in the last fifteen minutes of the game the Outlaws hardly got out of their own forty as a well drilled Beverley outfit gave them something of a lesson in game management and they extended their lead further with Ryan Watkin scoring his first to close out the game with Beverley posting a 24-14 victory.
After the game the players paused for the man of the match award. There were a few players in with a shout, Tom Howley put in a strong shift on his return to the side as did youngster Chris Rudkin. However the bubbly went to Andy Musvaburi for his two tries backed up with some solids defence.
Next week the Outlaws face a tough examination when they entertain unbeaten league leaders Batley Boys in what promises to be a cracking encounter at Highfields!