Nottingham Outlaws returned to action on Saturday with yet another tough encounter, this time travelling to East Yorkshire to face a high flying East Hull side.
As with the previous match at Siddal, they were up against it from the start but yet again they battled bravely, competing evenly for long periods of the game before succumbing to a 52-20 defeat.
Indeed the travelling faithful knew the Outlaws were heading for a tough day at the office with a spate of late injuries hitting the original squad hard forcing the coaching staff to dig deep into the clubs resources. Youngster Josh Burgin came in on the left wing for only his second start at senior level whilst rugby union convert Rupert Skill came in for his first game in the thirteen man code on the right wing. Squires and Whittle filled the important half-back roles whilst player-coach George Strachan dropped into the second row to allow Scott-Nelson to continue in the hooking role.
The pack was given a major boost by the return of the nimble-footed Charlie Clarke at loose with Kyle Widnall drafted in to give some cutting edge up front. Ivemey and Shepherd retained their positions on the bench to ensure there was a wealth of experience to draw on when needed.
From the get-go, the Outlaws found themselves on the back foot but some brave defence saw them hold out despite three sets on their own line and after ten minutes of desperate defence they had kept the powerful East Hull side at bay.
Having held out against the opening onslaught the Outlaws began to even up things on the territorial front. Indeed some good runs by Charlie Clarke and Adam Cunliffe set up a great field position and when the ball shipped right Ruper Skill took a well-timed pass from Whittle before cutting inside to register a try with virtually his first touch of the rugby league football!
With the Outlaws leading 4-0 some of the Outlaws faithful began to feel a shock might be on the cards but their hopes were soon dashed when their favourites lost the ball on the second tackle after the restart and three tackles later east Hull nudged ahead with a short-range effort and then extended their lead to 10-4 on the very next set.
Despite the reversal, the Outlaws went back up the field and they reduced the arrears when Charlie Clarke took a short ball 10 metres from the home line. There seemed little on when he collected the ball but some dazzling footwork saw him create a gap out of nothing and he managed to plant the ball down despite the attention of two East Hull defenders.
At 10-8 the Outlaws were matching the home side try-for-try but a lapse in concentration just on the half time hooter saw them leak something of a soft try and they went into the break 16-8 in arrears.
Despite the strong first half performance the Outlaws were begging to feel the heat from the home side so the coaching staff threw Ivemey and Shepherd into the mix in a bid to breathe new life into the side.
The Outlaws first-half performance had clearly caught the home side off guard and a more-determined East Hull outfit hit the straps straight from the start f the second stanza. They began to move the ball out wider, sensing that the Outlaws edge defence was somewhat vulnerable and their efforts were soon rewarded with two quickfire try’s as they extended the home lead to 28-8.
Despite the reversals the Outlaws stuck to their task and on a rare foray they added to their score as Strachan took the ball at first man, drew several home defenders to the collision before releasing Adam Cunliffe with a superb inside ball and the fleet-footed full back rounded his opposite number to plant the ball down under the sticks. Squires added the extras to reduce the deficit to 28-14.
Stung by this reversal the home team put their foot on the gas again, notching two more trys in a similar fashion to the last brace to pull away at 40-14.
And yet again the Outlaws refused to throw in the towel.
Indeed they scored a carbon copy try to the previous one as yet again Strachan drew the home defence before releasing Cunliffe on a great angle inside and Outlaws number one showed his opposite number a clean pair of heels. Once again the try was converted by Squires to make the score 40-20
The Outlaws score once again showed that they had the firepower to trouble any side in the division but their depleted resources could not hold the line intact for long and in the final minutes the home side registered two converted try’s to put them home and dry at 52-20.
Despite their defeat, there are plenty of green shoots in this new-look Outlaws side. Man of the match Adam Cunliffe showed that he was back to his try-scoring best and the return of youngster Charlie Clarke showed that he is going to be a major asset in coming seasons.
Next week the Outlaws have a week off from action before they start a run of two home games in which they will be looking to reverse their recent misfortunes and start their climb back up the table!