Nottingham Outlaws travelled to Lindley St Josephs on Saturday in the last 16 of the YML Cup. Despite plenty of effort, they succumbed to a 44-4 defeat.
The Outlaws side showed six changes to the side which narrowly lost to Brighouse last time out, with three debutants in Will Bryan on the wing, Ed Wheeler at centre and Ben Smith off the bench. Mike Bennett made a welcome return to the fold after a decade away while there were places for Freddie Fearnley and Liam Heaney, with Gaz Whitfield moving from wing to partner Blake Turner at half.
The match kicked off with a larger Lindley pack looking to impose itself on proceedings. Outlaws defence held up well, but an error from a kick gifted field position and a cut-out pass saw them over in the corner to take a 4-0 lead.
Stung by this reversal, Outlaws wasted little time in responding. A Whitfield bomb forced an error to give field position, and on the last Strachan sent it left to Cunliffe who pout Ed Wheeler through a gap for a debut try to level matters at 4-4.
In response, Lindley again forced an error with a kick and a near carbon copy move secured a second try for an 8-4 lead. Things got worse for Outlaws as Sam Andrews was forced off with a leg injury and only a try saving tackle from Whitfield prevented Lindley extending their lead.
With Lindley dominating field position, the dam burst just before half time as two quick fire tries gave the home side a 20-4 lead at the interval.
At half time, coach Cunliffe shuffled his pack, bringing on Bennett, Smith and Raine to add some size to counter the home forwards. Within ten minutes of the restart, the home side had extended their lead, the livewire hooker exploiting plenty of space to create and score to give a lead of 32-4.
Despite the scoreline, Outlaws continued their efforts and had their best spell of the match. Strong carries, especially from Ward, Bennett and Wadding, plus strong tackling from Strachan and Fearnley enabled Outlaws to gain consistent field position. Twice Strachan was held agonisingly short by good scrambling home defence.
With Outlaws unable to cross and with injuries rapidly reducing interchange options, a tiring defence was caught out twice more as Lindley made it 44-4 before good scrambling defence in the last 10 minutes prevented any addition to the final scoreline.
Despite the scoreline, the coaching staff came away feeling more upbeat than the previous week, with high effort levels and some strong showings across the park. Coryn Ward and Luke Wadding carried strongly against a much larger side, while George Strachan lead from the front in defence. The Man of the Match however went to Freddie Fearnley for his tireless work with and without the ball.
Outlaws’ firsts have a welcome week off next week, before a tough looking home fixture against upwardly mobile Fryston Warriors.