Nottingham Outlaws entertained second placed Keighley Albion at Lenton Lane on Saturday looking to halt a three-match losing run of home games. In an evenly matched contest, they played much better than they had in recent weeks but couldn’t avoid slipping to a 10-26 defeat against a well-drilled Keighley outfit.
After fortnights rest the Outlaws coaching staff were able to bring back a number of players who missed out on the Cutsyke game including full back Gaz Whitfield and centre Abe Sua and Mike Bennett who had recently recovered from an ankle injury. There were debutants on show too with Andrew Reaney being named as a replacement.
The Outlaws got off to a poor start when with less than five minutes on the clock they found themselves 6-0 down as a loose ball saw the Outlaws defence freeze and they could only watch as a Keighley player swooped on the ball and strode through a yawning gap in the home defence to post an opening score.
Despite the early setback the Outlaws players rallied and for the next thirty minutes they dominated field position but they couldn’t make their pressure pay, the nearest they came to scoring being a George Strachan touchdown that was chalked off for a forward pass.
With five minutes of the half remaining, it was the Outlaws’ defensive frailties that once again became their undoing as some poor tackling on the back of another lost ball saw Keighley extend their lead to 12-0.
With the match in danger of slipping away from them the Outlaws desperately needed some inspiration from somewhere and they found it in the shape of Captain Coryn Ward who latched onto a short pass from Tom Wigglesworth on the edge of the twenty-metre line, before using his speed to break through the visitor’s line before rounding the full back for a great try.
Gaz Whitfield added the extras from bang in front as the Outlaws went into the break 6-12 in arrears and still very much in the game.
The second stanza started in similar fashion to the first with some poor Outlaws defending out wide saw the Keighley stride through the Outlaws defence with only five second half minutes played as the Outlaws once again found themselves two scores down at 6-16.
The second half continued in similar vein to the first as the Outlaws hit back with a try of their own as Adam Riley finished off a fine move between the backs to score his first try out wide and reduce the deficit to one score at 10-16.
As the half progressed the Outlaws poor completion rate saw them unable to put any sustained pressure on the visitor’s line and their defensive frailties again resurfaced all too often. On the back of this Keighley built on their lead with two more scores without reply to wrap up the game at 10-26 and another home defeat for the Outlaws.
Despite the defeat the Outlaws coaching staff managed to find solace in a much-improved performance against one of the best teams in the division and there were a few good individual performances especially from the elusive Gaz Whitfield who put on a great show in attack and defence to grab the man of the match bubbly.
The Outlaws don’t have to wait long to try and seek revenge against their Yorkshire rivals as they travel up to Keighley next weekend for the return fixture.