Nottingham Outlaws finally returned to action at Lenton Lane on Saturday and rewarded their rugby starved fans with an excellent 34-14 victory over New Earswick All Blacks.
Despite not playing for a month, the Outlaws were dominant for most of the game, scoring seven trys to two to notch up their third win in a row and keep their Yorkshire Premier play off dreams alive!
After the long gap gap in the fixtures the Outlaws squad looked a little rusty going into the game and a few late injury call-offs didn’t help either, forcing player coach George Strachan into a number of changes to the side that won so well at Lindley last time out. Jack Elliot came into the side for a well-earned debut after impressing in the development team over the last few weeks to team up with Matt Horner in the cetres with Tyrelle Anderson Brown and Ollie McKeag on the wings. Sam Dennison returned to the side alongside Jimmy Goodwin in the second row with James Hood coming in for his debut on the bench.
The match kicked off in blistering heat and the teams appeared pretty evenly matched as both sides snuffed out each others attack in the opening exchanges. However, the match sprung into life on the tenth minute when straight from a scrum young centre Matt Horners speed and footwork caught the New earswick defence flatfooted. The boom centre scythed through the All Blacks line from forty metres out for a fine solo effort, Dean adding the extras from bang in front to put the Outlaws 6-0 up.
It was a lead they were destined to hold for the remainder of the game!
Having grabbed the opening score the Outlaws attack picked up the tempo, earning back to back sets as they put the All Blacks line under constant siege, Another score wasn’t long in coming and six minutes after the opening try skipper Oliver Dale doubled the Outlaws lead, latching onto a short ball from Strachan to smash through the visitors defence to score under the sticks. Dean converted from bang in front to make it 12-0 to the Outlaws.
At this point the visitors had yet to make it into the Outlaws forty but they could make little headway against an eager home defence and the Outlaws stretched even further ahead on the midway point of the first stanza when great hands saw Adam Cunliffe finish of a five man handling move to open his account for the afternoon and extend the Outlaws lead to 16-0.
Having done so well in the opening quarter the Outlaws blotted their copy book, giving away a penalty for obstruction early in the tackle count and with it possession on their own forty. It was the first time in the match that the All Blacks had been in the home red zone but they instantly capitalised as Will Holmes beat two Outlaws defenders to open the visitors account and reduce the Outlaws lead to 16-6.
Indeed the All Blacks try seemed to unsettle the Outlaws a little and they spent most of the remainder of the first half on the back foot, successfully defending a number of All Blacks raids but unable to find the rhythm and possession they enjoyed in the opening twenty minutes. They looked to have weathered the storm as the halftime whistle approached but yet another penalty saw the All Blacks elect to kick and the successful conversion cut the Outlaws lead to 16-8 as the referee drew the first stanza to a close.
The players left the pitch seeking the cool of the dressing rooms whilst the Outlaws coaches did their best to breathe new life into the team, throwing on Barton, Hood, Betts and Scott-Nelson in a bid to revive some tired legs.
The half time changes seemed to have done the trick as the Outlaws started the second stanza with a much better tempo, in similar fashion to first they dominated the opening quarter and once again the scoreboard began ticking over in their favour. After ten minutes of second half play George Strachan made a clean break on the halfway line before offloading to Matt Horner in support. The young centre looked like he could have scored himself but he unselfishly drew the full back before returning the pass to Strachan who finished off the move he started to extend the Outlaws lead to 20-8.
The Strachan score seemed to dent the All Blacks confidence and the visitors began to fall off the tackle as the Outlaws hit full throttle again and another try wasn’t long in coming. Strachan almost grabbed his second but was held up over the line but on the very next play youngster Ollie McKeag opened his account for the afternoon, capping a fine display with a solo effort as the rangy winger proved too big and too strong for his opposite number to hold.
At 26-8 the Outlaws were clearly home and dry but they weren’t finished yet and with fifteen minutes left on the clock Adam Cunliffe grabbed his second of the day with a fine solo effort, chipping over the top before re-gathering on the bounce, rounding the full back and sprinting over for a deserved brace.
Despite some extended periods of All Black pressure, the Outlaws kept their line intact and with five minutes to go player coach George Strachan deservedly bagged his second from short range, crashing over straight from the play the ball to put the Outlaws out of sight at 34-8.
To their credit, the young visitors kept battling away right up to the final whistle and they deservedly came away with their second try of the game as Rhys Bailey gathered a cossfield kick to notch an All Blacks score after a period of consistent pressure to reduce the deficit to 34-14 as the referee drew the game to close.
The Outlaws deservedly celebrated a victory on their return to the game after their long lay-off. Their third win on the bounce sees them keep hold of that elusive top four spot but their winning run will be severely tested next week when they travel to second placed East Hull who have title winning aspirations of their own!
Tries: George Strachan 2, Adam Cunlife 2, Oliver McKeag Matt Horner, Oliver Dale
Goals: Dean 3
Tries: Will Holmes, Rhys Bailey,
Goals Conor Calum 3