Nottingham Outlaws travelled to Brighouse Rangers on Saturday for their latest Yorkshire Premier League outing still searching for a win after a run of five successive defeats. They headed north with a squad ravaged by injury and Covid withdrawals and despite battling hard at times they were always behind in the game before eventually finishing on the wrong end of a 48-6 scoreline.
The Outlaws knew it was going to be a tough day at the office when a flurry of Covid withdrawals and injuries saw them make no fewer than ten changes to the team that took to the field only seven days before.
The Outlaws had to dig deep into their reserve squad to get a full 17 man squad out on the pitch. Indeed such was the emergency the net had to be cast even wider as Roddy Jonas and Daniel Ford were hastily drafted in and Frenchman Matthieu Paques was also brought in for emergency debuts in a new look back line.
There were a plethora of changes in the front six too with Liam Heaney and Harrison Ashby coming in on debut along with Stew Readhead, Liam Harrison and Jamie Muggleton providing emergency cover for the forwards on the bench.
The match started badly for the Outlaws when they made a hash of the kick off, conceding a penalty for offside when trying to gather the ball putting themselves under immediate pressure. They managed to repel the immediate danger but they dropped the ball on the first tackle back in possession, conceding back to back sets on their own line and with it an opening 6-0 lead to the homeside with barely two minutes on the clock.
Despite the shaky start the new-look Outlaws rallied and the game became much more even. Indeed in the next twenty minute period it was the Outlaws asking all of the questions, twice being held up over the line before Dan Ford burst through on a short ball to touch down, only to have his equalising effort disallowed somewhat harshly for a forward pass.
With thirty five minutes played the Outlaws appeared to be on the ascendancy but they had failed to grab the scores that their dominance deserved and as so often happens in sport, they were made to pay for their failure to take their chances.
The problems started from deep when a missed tackle saw the home side scorch sixty metres up field to score and then two minutes later they failed to number up out wide allowing the Rangers winger to stroll in at the corner. The first half whistle went straight after with the Outlaws looking down the barrel of an 18-0 deficit despite having played so well in large stretches of the first period.
Half time gave the coaches a chance to refresh their resources with the evergreen duo of Readhead and Muggleton coming on with Liam Harrison joining them from the bench to make a completely new front row in an effort to stem the fast rising tide.
The second stanza started in pretty much the same way as the first with the Outlaws conceding a try in the first set with some poor tackling and from the get go it was apparent that the Outlaws were very quickly starting to run out of gas which was a worrying sight for the travelling supporters.
In the first half the Outlaws tackling held firm for long periods with Coryn Ward, Harrison Ashby and Charlie Clarke in particular leading the way with some crunching tackles. However as the second half unfolded the rapidly tiring Outlaws began to drop off the tackle and with it came more home trys.
Indeed, the wilting Outlaws conceded two trys in a devastating five minute spell in which the Rangers capitalised on some weak tackling around the ruck to extend their lead to 34-0.
To their credit the Outlaws rallied and at last they got some reward that their efforts richly deserved. The score started with a break by the elusive Roddy Jonas who released the long striding Albert Paskevic who subsequently drew the Rangers full back before offloading to Cunliffe who touched down to put the Outlaws on the scoreboard at last. Cunliffe added the extras from bang in front to at least give the Outlaws some respite at 34-6.
Again the Outlaws did their best to limit the damage on the restart but they were powerless to stop the home side adding to their tally with three more late scores to wrap up yet another heavy reversal with the scoreboard registering a 48-6 defeat for the Outlaws.
As the tired but far from dispirited troops left the pitch there were still a few players in the hunt for the man of the match award but there were no complaints when the bubbly went to centre Roddy Jonas who demonstrated some fine footwork all afternoon in a great debut outing.
After the match Outlaws player-coach Adam Cunliffe remained upbeat yet realistic in his assessment of the game, commenting “It was a tough game today with so many changes affecting our performance. However the effort was there but we just lacked that rugby league nous defensively at times and that is something we will continue to work on going forward”
The Outlaws have a two week break now before they head north again to face New Earswick who sit just below them in the league