After a run of three successive victories in the opening weeks of the 2021 campaign, Nottingham Outlaws suffered their first defeat of the season with a heavy 54-0 reversal at the hands of a powerful Siddal outfit at Halifax on Saturday. The home side packed proved too big and too mobile to handle at times but the Outlaws stuck to their task and ultimately will have learned a lot from this reversal.
The Outlaws coaching staff are clearly still experimenting with their new look squad and they rang the changes yet again, making a string of changes to the side that beat New Earswick last weekend, including no fewer than six debutants in the squad that travelled north on Saturday morning. In the backs Sailosi Wakawaka and Albert Paskevic slotted in at centre and wing, Brandon Whittaker came in at stand off to partner Adam Cunliffe in the halves with Tyler Beardsley and Ronan Treble making their Yorkshire League bow in the pack. Freddie Fearnley made up the sixth newcomer on the bench.
As the teams warmed up a quick look at the team sheets indicated that the Outlaws were going to be up against it as the home coaching staff were using the game to test their NCL stars ahead of next week’s opening fixtures. And so it proved!
From the first exchanges this new look Outlaws team struggled to get a grips with the big, yet mobile Siddal front six who made big inroads with each drive. Indeed the clock was only 2 minutes old when the home side opened their account and two quick fire trys, all on the back of superb handling moves, meant the shell-shocked Outlaws were soon 16-0 in arrears with the home side scoring at the rate of a point a minute!
Some harsh refereeing was not helping the cause and a string of penalties saw the Outlaws rarely getting hold of the ball, let alone mount any attacks and when the home team scored two more tries in the middle of the half it appeared that a record defeat might be on the cards!
To their credit the Outlaws did manage to steady the ship with James Amachree and Coryn Ward putting in a good tackling stint to shore up the home defence and Sam Andrews came off the bench and made an immediate impact, taking on Siddal pack down the middle and finally making some advances against the home pack as the Outlaws began to get to grips with the pace of the game.
After stemming the tide the Outlaws began to ask a few questions of the home defence and Alex Whittle and Adam Cunliffe began orchestrating a few moves in and around the Siddal red zone but they couldn’t find their way through a highly organised Siddal defensive line.
After a period of relatively even play the home side cut loose again and scored another try on the stroke of half time to make it 32-0 to Siddal with the Outlaws looking well and truly second best at this point.
The Outlaws half time interchange options were somewhat limited, with Gaz Whitfield and Alex Whittle both off the field with head injuries so Freddie Fearnley was drafted into the forwards to give some fresh impetus into the Outlaws front six.
The second stanza started off pretty much where the first one ended with the home team posting two quick-fire scores to stretch the lead to 44-0 with 30 minutes still to play as the Outlaws struggled to cope with the fast moving ball and once again it looked like the floodgates were about to open.
However to their credit the Outlaws did not throw in the towel and they had their best period of the game, with Adam Cunliffe and debutant Brandon Whittaker at last getting some ball and field position to work with and the Outlaws came close to opening their account, twice being held up over the line as Abe Sua and Joe Moran came close to registering a score for the Outlaws.
After a period of Outlaws dominance the home side cut loose again scoring two more tries to finish off their scoring with the home side now 54-0 ahead.
The Outlaws just failed to get the score they were desperately hoping for literally on the final move of the game. A superb kick from Brandon Whittaker saw Adam Cunliffe dive to get a hand on the ball but the referee judged the grounding was on the line. Indeed a try would have been fitting for man of the match Cunliffe who had run himself into the ground over the full eighty minutes in an attempt to get something from the game for his brave charges.
After the game, player coach Adam Cunliffe was far from despondent and was quick to praise his charges, in the knowledge that they wont come up against an outfit as strong as this one in the remainder of the campaign, adding “It was a tough day at the office against what was a very strong Siddal team. Despite that, the encouraging thing is we improved as the game went on. We had 6 players on debut and they all stood up well. Our communication could have been better and that’s an area we will look at this week but the resilience and commitment from the lads was great.”
The defeated Outlaws now have a week to rally the troops before they travel back up to Yorkshire for their Premier Division game against Cutsyke in Castleford on Saturday.