Nottingham Outlaws continued their 2022 Yorkshire Premier League campaign on Saturday with a home fixture against New Earswick All Blacks from York. The Outlaws were keen to get off the mark following last week’s defeat at Toll Bar but despite a much improved performance they just fell short of victory losing out 24-16 in a highly entertaining match.
The Outlaws went into their first home match of the campaign with a few changes to the team that lost at Toll Bar last week. Clarke Squires came in at scrum half for his first game for over a season to partner Ben Littlewood in the halves whilst Will White came in in the centres with Joe Moran and Ronan Treble moving out to the wings.
Straight from the kick off the Outlaws went on the attack, winning three back to back sets in and around the All Blacks twenty metre zone. However they lacked the cutting edge to get over the whitewash and the nearest they came to a try in the early onslaught was when Coryn Ward was agonisingly held up in the tackle despite getting over the line.
It appeared that the early Outlaws dominance was going to go unrewarded but they finally forced their way over when good hands saw the ball reach Ronan Treble on the left wing. There was still plenty of traffic in front of him but the youngster managed to crash over in the corner despite the attention of two All Black defenders as the Outlaws crept into an early 4-0 lead with ten minutes on the clock.
At this stage the All Blacks had hardly laid a hand on the ball but they caught the Outlaws defence napping with their first real attack and a missed tackle in the middle of the park saw the All Blacks creep ahead with a try under the sticks as the visitors led 6-4 at the midway mark in the first stanza.
It looked like the Outlaws would go into the break only two points in arrears but some poor defending on the right hand side saw the Outlaws conceded another try on the stroke of halftime to trail 12-4 at the interval.
The coaching staff used the half time break to rejig the forwards with Tyler Beardsley coming on for the injured Freddie Fearnley and Liam Heaney taking over the hooking duties.
Whatever was in the half time drinks it clearly didn’t help the Outlaws as they made a dreadful start to the second half, losing the ball in their first set and then, in a disastrous five minute spell they failed to number up in the tackle out wide to leak two trys. With both scores converted the visitors had managed to put themselves in a winning position with three trys in a devastating ten minute spell either side of the half time break!
Despite the reversals the Outlaws, to their credit, did not throw in the towel and they spent most of the remaining thirty minutes in the visitors half. Indeed they peppered the All Blacks line with attack after attack but yet again they lacked the cutting edge to finish off the moves and get the points that their dominance deserved.
With ten minutes remaining the Outlaws pressure finally paid off when Clarke Squires seized a loose ball and fed Adam Cunliffe to score under the posts and then the ball went wide to Coryn Ward who went over in the right hand corner. Ben Litlewood added both conversions to cut the deficit to 16-24 but it was too late in the game for the Outlaws to stand any chance of a victory and when the final whistle went the Outlaws still remained short of that elusive first victory in their 2022 campaign.
Despite the defeat there were a number of good performances across the squad. Player-Coach Adam Cunliffe had a fine day at the office, fielding several towering bombs as well as bagging a fine try and rookie forward Harry Masini had his best game yet in an Outlaws shirt as he continues to go from strength to strength. However the bubbly deservedly went to loose forward Alex Whittle who orchestrated most of the Outlaws attacks as well as putting in a full eighty minutes of tackling duties.
Next Saturday the Outlaws entertain East Hull at Lenton Lane for a match in which they will be desperately keen to get off the mark!