Nottingham Outlaws entertained league leaders Siddal at Lenton Lane on Saturday hoping to end a four match losing sequence. However, despite battling hard they were no match for their unbeaten visitors and the outgunned Outlaws ended up on the wrong end of a 46-6 scoreline.
The Outlaws were forced into additional changes on the morning of the game when James Amachree failed a fitness test on the morning of the match. The loss of Amachree meant player coach Adam Cunliffe teamed up with Charlie Clarke in the half back roles with Jimmy Goodwin coming back into the side forming a new-look center partnership with Gaz Whitfield.
In the forwards Tyler Beardsley came back into the front row alongside youngster Joe Moran who pulled on the all-important number nine shirt. The back three of Ward, Treble and Whittle remained unchanged from last weekend. There was plenty of size on the bench with James Hood returning from injury joining James Gisborne and Steve Page as forward replacements with utility back Sailosi Wakawaka completing the seventeen.
If the Outlaws were to stand any chance of getting something out of the game they needed to make a good start, but they did the exact opposite, struggling to advance the ball out of their red zone from the kick off and when the visitors took possession they quickly posted their intent when they burst through some weak home defending to open up a 6-0 lead with two minutes on the clock.
Stung by this reversal the Outlaws stormed back up the pitch and within a minute of the Siddal score they scored a try themselves; a short pass from acting half caught the visitors napping as prop Sam Andrews latched onto the ball to crash over for a well taken effort. Gaz Whitfield added the extras to level the scores at 6-6.
Unfortunately for the Outlaws it was to prove the only time they were destined to get over the try line.
Having got themselves back into the game the Outlaws immediately found themselves up against it when Charlie Clarke was somewhat harshly sin-binned for a late challenge and whilst the Outlaws were down to twelve men they fell behind again as they were once more guilty of some lacklustre tackling which Siddal punished with a clinical try to make it 12-6 to the visitors
In recent weeks the Outlaws have found themselves leaking trys at alarming rates in certain stages of the game and in the remaining minutes of the first half it happened again. With ten minutes left on the clock the home defence melted away as the rampant visitors ran riot, posting no fewer than four unanswered trys in a devastating spell that put the game well and truly beyond reach of a shell-shocked Outlaws side.
Mercifully the referee drew the first half to a close but with the scoreboard registering a 30-6 deficit there was little the coaching staff could do other than throw all of their substitutes into the fray in an attempt to get something out of the game.
The pace of the game slowed visibly in the second half as the heat and humidity began to take its toll and to be fair to the Outlaws they began to get to grips with the visitors attacks as Gaz Whitfield and Charlie Clarke shored up the edge defence with some good communication and tackling holding the Outlaws line intact. However on attack the Outlaws could make little or no impression on the Siddal line and the chances of an Outlaws score always looked remote.
After spending so long encamped in their own half the Outlaws defence finally began out of steam and the visitors’ superior fitness began to make its mark. Once again the score board began to tick over as an unforgiving Siddal team ran in another three trys to close out the game with a commanding 46-6 victory.
After the game the players gathered to hear who was going to take home the man of the match award. There were a few players in the mix with Adam Cunliffe getting a mention on attack and Coryn ward and Charlie Clarke showing up on defence. However the bubbly deservedly went to centre Gaz Whitfield for some great work in defence and with ball in hand.
After almost two years in waiting the local rugby league supporters were finally able to attend a live game at Lenton Lane on Saturday as Nottingham Outlaws entertained high-flying Brighouse Rangers in a Yorkshire Premier League Fixture. Despite the hot weather, both teams put on an excellent display of rugby league football but the Outlaws eventually finished second best to an extremely well drilled Rangers outfit who inflicted a 34-12 defeat on the hardworking home side.
After a three week gap in the fixture list the Outlaws went into the game sporting a number of changes to the squad that lost at Siddal last time out, including no fewer than four players on debut in the 17 man match day squad. In the backs both wingers were pulling on an Outlaws shirt for the first time, with Will White on the right hand side and Aiden Porter-Holborn on the left. The other pair of debutants were Louis Wilson and Harry Masini who both were making their Outlaws bow from the bench.
Other changes saw Jimmy Goodwin come into the centres for the first time this season whilst player-coach Adam Cunliffe continued at number seven pairing up with Sam Dennison in the all-important half back roles. There were a few changes in the forwards too with George Strachan coming back in at number nine and Ronan Treble pairing up with James Hood in the second row.
The home faithful probably knew it wasn’t going to be their day when James Hood tweaked a hamstring in the pre-match warm up which meant Abe Sua was rapidly elevated into the starting line up and right from the off the Outlaws were up against, spending most of the opening exchanges in and around the home red zone but some good defence kept the home line intact.
In a match played in four quarters and sweltering heat both sides put on some excellent defensive work and it was the Outlaws who came closest to opening the scoring when Adam Cunliffe just failed to collect a chip over the top with the line at his mercy and then the elusive player-coach broke through the line but couldn’t find anyone in support as another chance went begging. The first quarter finished with the two teams scoreless as defences remained on top.
The second quarter was almost the complete opposite to the first and it proved to be the defining sector of the game. The problems started as the Outlaws tried to offload in their twenty metre zone but lost the ball in the process and with it an opening try for the visitors. Buoyed by this success the visitors began to pile on the pressure allowing full back Lucas Birch to cut loose. Indeed the elusive number one was clearly too hot for the Outlaws to handle as he extended their lead to 10-0 on the back of another penalty.
The two Rangers trys seemed to knock the stuffing out of the home defence and their tackling in the second quarter could only be described as woeful as the visitors scored two more trys to stretch the lead out to 20-0 and the game was effectively over after this twenty minute horror show!
The half time break allowed the home coaches a chance to bring some fresh faces off the bench with Abe Sua and Tyler Beardsley coming on to relieve the forwards who were beginning to suffer in the heat.
The Outlaws finally managed to put in some attacking plays as the third quarter unfolded and they opened their account when Adam Cunliffe grabbed a well deserved try after coming close in the first quarter but two more Rangers trys of the back of yet more sloppy defending soon snuffed out any hopes of a home revival as the third quarter came to a close with the Outlaws now trailing 30-12.
As the game entered the final quarter the result was no longer in doubt and the pace visibly dropped as the players , not unsurprisingly, began to run out of steam in the sweltering heat. However there was still time for both teams to add one more score esch, with Harry Masini capping his debut with a fine try to take the Outlaws into double figures and wrap up the scoring at 34-12 in the visitors favour.
After the game the players waited eagerly to learn who was going to pick up the man of the match bubbly. There were a few players in the mix but the award deservedly went to rookie forward Tyler Beardsley who came off the bench and put in an excellent stint on attack and defence.
Next week the Outlaws will be looking to reverse two match losing streak as they head up the M1 to play Queensbury.
Rugby league returned to Lenton Lane on Saturday for the first time since August 2019 when Nottingham Outlaws entertained New Earswick All Blacks in their opening Yorkshire Premier Division fixture. Despite the wet and windy weather the Outlaws played some excellent attacking rugby, outscoring their dogged visitors to finish with a deserved 28-14 victory.
Head coach Adam Cunliffe had something of a selection conundrum going into the game having used over forty players in the two pre-season friendlies leading up to the match. After much thought the rookie coach went with a mixture of experience and new faces for his first competitive match in charge.
The changes included two players on debut, hooker Joe Moran on the bench with speedster James Amachree on the wing. Other changes included a new look centre partnership of Charlie Clarke and Coryn Ward to increase the attacking options once the forwards had done the hard work down the middle.
The match kicked off in a swirling wind and pouring rain and the difficult conditions seemed to affect the visitors the most. Twice in succession athe All Blacks dropped the ball putting the Outlaws on the front foot from the get-go and they soon capitalised when a free-flowing move from right to left saw Charlie Clarke scorch over with some good footwork to make it 4-0 to the Outlaws with less than five minutes played.
Despite the strong start the Outlaws could make little impression against a well drilled All Blacks defence that was now growing in confidence after a shaky start, putting plenty of men in the tackle and after twenty five minutes of play neither side had carved out a clear chance since the opening score.
With ten minutes of the half remaining the match suddenly sprung to life when a kick through by New Earswick rebounded back into the kickers arms who put winger Dean Smith away as the All Blacks levelled to make it 4-4 with minutes left to the half time hooter.
The visitors try seemed to provide something of a wake up call to the Outlaws who stormed back up the field. A huge run down the middle by prop Mike Stewart finally split open the New Earswick defence and Adam Cunliffe popped up on his shoulder to take the pass out of the tackle and put the Outlaws back in front within a minute of conceding. Gaz Whitfield added the extras from bang in front to make it 10-4 to the Outlaws after 40 minutes of absorbing rugby league football.
The half time break saw the coaching team looking to breathe new life into the team and Joe Moran and Abraham Sua came off the bench to freshen up an Outlaws pack that had worked hard playing into the elements during the first stanza.
The second half started with the Outlaws looking to utilise the stiff breeze that was in their favour but a couple of dropped balls saw them very much on the back foot in the early exchanges. Indeed it came as no surprise when the All Blacks scored after a period of consistent pressure.
Once again the damage was done off the back of a ricochet from the kick through, the deflected ball wrong footing the Outlaws defence and Ben Husband pounced to peg the Outlaws lead back to a slender 10-8 margin.
Things then went from bad to worse when experienced second rower Oliver Dale went down with a bad ankle injury, stopping the game for 15 minutes and when the match re-started the result seemed very much up in the air, with the All Blacks growing in confidence all the time and more and more of the play taking place in and around the Outlaws forty.
After sixty minutes of play Outlaws finally managed to break the siege, having struggled to get into their opponents half for much of the second period, forcing their way into the All Blacks red zone for the first time since the break.
Having set the platform they stretched their lead to two scores when a nicely weighted flat pass saw Charlie Clarke once again use his footwork to grab a much needed try for the Outlaws. Indeed the Clarke try made it a fine brace for the young centre to seal a man of the match performance!
Squires converted to make it 16-8 and two minutes later the Outlaws lead was extended further when George Strachan used his strength and experience at acting half to dummy and go from short range, powering through for a fine short-range effort.
At 22-8 with ten minutes to play the All Blacks were still technically in the game and when Ben Husband bagged his second of the game to male it 22-14 the game was once again in the balance!
Whilst there may have a few furrowed brows amongst the Outlaws coaching staff. any last minute nerves were quickly dispelled when the home side once again powered down the pitch off the back of some fine interplay amongst the forwards. Having gained a foothold in the All Black red zone Adam Cunliffe celebrated his first match in charge with his second try of the game to wrap up the match with the Outlaws posting a hard-earned 28-14 victory against a determined All Blacks side that never threw in the towel.
After the game a tired but happy Outlaws coach, Adam Cunliffe was quick to pay tribute to his charges commenting ” I thought it was a good challenge for us today and a real arm wrestle in difficult conditions. There was probably less space around the ruck than previous weeks but our ball movement is starting to look sharper which is encouraging. Defensively I thought we had a lot of grit, two of their tries came from ricocheted kicks so that stood out for us today. With the ball we generally picked the right options and stayed patient.
In terms of outstanding players, I think we were strong across the board! Our outside backs got us going pretty well and our middles were strong in defence. Mike Stewart looked dangerous and I’m looking forward to seeing how his combination with Clark progresses. Finally I just want to send best wishes to Oliver Dale after his injury today, and to let him know that the whole club wishes him a speedy recovery!”
Next week the Outlaws face a stiff challenge when the travel up to Halifax to take on last years top four outfit Siddal.