Nottingham Outlaws travelled up to Yorkshire on Saturday for their final Yorkshire Premier League outing of the season against an East Hull side looking to secure a top four play off spot. Despite another encouraging performance the Outlaws were always chasing the game and failed to end the season on a high note as they succumbed to a 34-12 defeat
The Outlaws made a number of changes to the squad that last ran out two weeks ago in the defeat against Bentley. There was a new look front row with Steve Page and Sam Andrews coming back into the front row either side of Alex Whittle in the number nine shirt with Stew Readhead completing the pack at loose forward.
In the backs Kenny Wilson teamed up with Albert Paskevic for a new look centre pairing with Frenchman Mathieu Paques and Aiden Porter-Holborn on either wing and Gaz Whitfield at fullback. The all-important half back pairing saw Adam Cunliffe team up with Haz Ashby for the first time.
The match started badly for the Outlaws when they made a hash of the kick off, knocking on inside their own twenty. Two plays later the ball swept out through three pairs of hands as East Hull went over in the corner to open up 6-0 lead with barely two minutes on the clock. Things then went from bad to worse when barely two minutes later the home side scored a carbon copy try in the same corner and when they converted the Outlaws were staring down the barrel of a gun at 12-0 down with only five minutes on the clock!
To their credit the Outlaws managed to steady the ship with some good tackling in the middle by Page, Andrew and Whittle who combined well to stem the tide and slowly but surely the Outlaws began to get on top. Indeed they came close to opening their account when Cunliffe was held up in goal and they were finally rewarded for their efforts when Alex Whittle went over with a trademark show and go to reduce the deficit to 12-6 with Gaz Whitfield adding the extras from the touchline.
The midway stages of the first stanza turned into something of an arm wrestle with both sides guilty of dropping the ball at key moments but it was the Outlaws who were dominating field position without being able to add to their points tally. Indeed after thirty minutes of good work the Outlaws had failed to get the score they should have had and they were duly punished as East Hull scored again with a try from a break inside their own half to make it 18-6 to the home side.
Stung by this reversal the Outlaws hammered away at the home line with Gaz Whitfield being held up in goal and Coryn Ward looked to have scored only for the ball to shoot out of his grasp before grounding and as the half time whistle went the Outlaws had again failed to capitalise on their territorial dominance
During the half time break the coaches were quick to point out the need to stay composed with ball in hand whilst maintaining discipline in the tackle and the message seemed to have been taken on board with the Outlaws starting the second stanza as they had finished it in and around the East Hull red zone.
Once again the Outlaws failed to get over the whitewash despite some good attacking work and they were duly punished by two quick fire trys by the home side on the fifty minute mark as the game finally drifted away from the Outlaws who found themselves trailing by four scores at 28-6 with twenty five minutes left to play.
Despite the scoreline the Outlaws, to their credit, did not throw in the towel with Captain Courageous Coryn Ward leading the way with a series of strong tackles on the home sides front six and with Cunliffe orchestrating things on attack the Outlaws once again began to get the upper hand and this time they got their just deserts as Ronan Treble went over to reduce the deficit to 28-12 with ten minutes to play.
As the clock ticked down both teams began to tire visibly but there was just enough petrol left in the tank for East Hull to stretch their lead to 34-12 before the final whistle went on the game and with it the 2021 season.
After the game the players waited for the final man of the match award of the season to be announced. There were a few players in with a shout with Gaz Whitfield having another solid performance carrying well and putting in some great tackles whilst rookie winger Mathieu Pacques also had another solid game. However it was the dynamic duo of Cunliffe and Ward who shared the bubbly after a great tackling stint by Ward was matched by a great attacking display by the player coach.
Speaking with the press after the game Cunliffe was quick to praise the efforts of his charges commenting ” Obviously we were hoping to finish the season on a win, but I thought our ball movement and ruck defence were much improved on previous games. We struggled on the edges defensively, but that trust and connection will hopefully come next year with more consistency. I thought Coryn was really good defensively today as he has been all year, and I thought Matthieu Pacques carried well and made some strong tackles. Gaz also played really well on both sides of the ball”.
Indeed with the season now over the young coach was already planning for next season adding “it has been a tough year results-wise, but in terms of the improvement we have made and the new players we have had buy-in to the club, I’m really excited for next season already”