Nottingham Outlaw’s winning run came to an end when they were on the wrong end of a 32-12 scoreline against top of the table Stanley Rangers at Lenton Lane on Saturday. In scorching hot conditions both sides felt the heat but it was a physically bigger and more powerful Stanley side that came out on top against an outgunned Outlaws team.
The Outlaws went into the match hoping to lay down a marker in their quest for a top four finish and with five changes to the squad that defeated Ossett last time out with Harry Walton pairing up with Clarke Squires in the halves and Alex Whittle coming back in at number nine. They were joined by Alex Melton who was making his debut from the bench.
The Outlaws started like a house on fire in the opening fifteen minutes of the game, hammering away at the Rangers try line and on three occasions in a blistering ten minute spell they crossed the visitors whitewash only to be held up over the line.
Despite their early dominance some excellent scrambling defence by Stanley meant that the Outlaws were destined to go unrewarded but they finally got their just rewards when Haz Ashby latched onto a long pass and forced his way over for a try despite the attention of two Rangers defenders. Gaz Whitfield converted beautifully from the touchline as the Outlaws crept into a deserved 6-0 lead.
Despite being under the cosh the visiting league leaders were still very much in contention and they showed their prowess with some excellent tactical kicking that yielded back-to-back sets and on the back of this intense pressure they leveled the scores at 6-6 with ten minutes left to play.
It looked like the sides would go into the sheds on level terms but disaster struck for the home team when they failed to deal with another probing kick which resulted in a try out wide for the visitors to wrap up the first half scoring with Rangers holding a slender 10-6 advantage.
There were high hopes from the home supporters when the Outlaws switched ends to play with a decent breeze at their backs, but a closer look on the Outlaws substitutes bench revealed that two of the Outlaws interchanges had match ending injuries and this was to prove crucial as the game developed.
The visitors started the second stanza in the same way that they finished the first, scoring out wide to extend their lead to 6-14 and for most of the third quarter of the game the Outlaws remained trapped in their own forty, defending grimly and now down to one fit reserve as Harry Walton left the field with a head knock.
Just when it looked like the Outlaws were about to concede again Haz Ashby intercepted a loose pass and with ball in hand he went on a foot race down the field, sprinting seventy meters down the touchline to score a superb solo effort in the corner and a try out of nothing. Once again Whitfield added the extras from the touchline as the Outlaws clawed their way back into the match at 12-14 with twenty five second half minutes played.
As often happens in sport, a team is at their most vulnerable just after scoring and this was most definitely true for the Outlaws who coughed up possession on the restart and two tackles later they were punished as Stanley scored under the sticks to lead 12-20 and at the same time lost Haz Ashby meaning they had to play the remainder of the game with no replacements.
As the temperature continued to rise the Outlaws players began to look more and more fatigued and with no substitutes to call on they succumbed to two more trys as the Rangers showed the home fans exactly why they look like the team to beat in Division One this year, to wrap up the scoring at 32-12 in favour of the visitors.
As the referee blew the final whistle the players mercifully left the field looking for shade and there were more than a few in with a shout of the man of the match bubbly. Forwards Ali Warrng and Sam Andrews had put in a great shift as had Clarke Squires in the halfs but it was Alex Whittle that took the award with a fine display on attack and defence.
The Outlaws are once again at home on Saturday when they face another top-four rival Sharlston Rovers at Lenton Lane