Saturday, 9 June 2012

Nottingham Outlaws 46 v Bristol Sonics 20 - Rugby League National Conference Div. 3 ... plus extras

Left click all pictures for enlarged versions

Saturday 9th June 2012, at the Harvey Hadden Stadium
Midlands Rugby League - Division 1 East
Nottingham Outlaws 'A' (0) 18
Coventry Dragons (26) 48
The first time I ever visited the Harvey Hadden Stadium, was to watch my (then) teenage daughter representing North Notts schools at long distance running.
I used to encourage her to run 10 miles a day back then ... because it meant that every week, she'd be another 70 miles away from home.
Before today's main event, I watched Nottingham Outlaws 'A' team play Coventry Dragons on the main pitch at the Harvey Hadden.
This 'groundshare' was borne out of necessity, because vandals have destroyed the posts on the usual Academy pitch, which is tucked away at the far side of the sports centre complex.
It seems that the local Rugby League club aren't the only outlaws on the block, but I s'pose this is Nottingham, when all said and done.
Coventry Dragons deservedly won the opening game of the day, against an Outlaws 'A' side who now find themselves on a three game losing streak ... and though they have now reached a points scored total of 100 for the season (in 5 games), the 216 points they have conceded makes for grim reading.
After touching down their first try, scored by Steve Hodson, in the right hand corner, the Dragons side never looked back and made time and space for themselves to effectively kill the game off by half time.
The visitors finished the first half off in style, with Phil Malloy, touching down underneath the posts, while Mark Hyslopp converted the resultant kick to give them a commanding 26-0 lead at the interval.
The Notts side gave a far better account of themselves after the break, but despite responding with a few tries of their own, they had given the Dragons far too much of a comfort zone, that afforded the visitors the luxury of being able to break quickly out of defence, whenever an Outlaws attack broke down, to push forward and maintain their unassailable lead.
Outlaws 'A' team, leaked a total 128 points in their last two games prior to today, for a return of just 26 points, in back to back games with second placed Sleaford Spartans.
But listening to some of the aftermatch comments from some of the players who stayed to watch the first team in action, they'll be pulling out all the stops to address their current form in next Saturday's game at the Harvey Hadden, against Wolverhampton.
Saturday 9th June 2012, at the Harvey Hadden Stadium
Rugby League National Conference, Division 3
(AKA Rugby League Conference National Division)
Nottingham Outlaws (20) 46
Tries: Strachan (12, 32), Crick (18), Spurgeon (24), Campbell (44),
Ephraim (46), Thomas (68), Hardacre (70), Calland (74)
Goals: Campbell 5
Bristol Sonics (12) 20
Tries: Rogers (2), Hall (8), Raymond (72), Pearson (78)
Goals: Swann 2
Admission £3, Programme £2
Pitchside debriefing for the 'A' team as the first team game gets under way

Nottingham Outlaws:
1 Nick Tasker, 2 James Goodwin, 3 Coryn Ward, 4 Will Thomas
5 Sam Campbell, 6 Oliver Crick, 7 Alex Whittle, 8 Will Ephraim
9 Dan Smith, 10 Tom Atkinson, 11 George Strachan,12 Eddie Shaw
13 Matt Hammond
Subs - 14 Jodi Spurgeon, 15 Paul Calland, 16 Josh Hardacre
17 Steve Page
Bristol Sonics:
1 Mike Gatson, 2 Arran Pearson, 3 Marcus Brooker, 4 Dom Pullen
5 James Raymond, 6 Dom Swann, 7 Lewis Beer, 8 Ryan Hall
9 Pete Hayes, 10 Daniel Brooker, 11 Josh Simpson, 12 Matt Douglas
13 Wes Rogers
Subs - 14 Curtis Asante, 15 Joe Singleton, 16 Wijand Wormhoudt
17 Jake Robertson
Bristol Sonics, went into today's game with a less than enviable point scoring differential of 'For 78, Against 297', that's minus 219 for those of you not quick enough with your fingers and thumbs to beat the Chaser.
The Outlaws on the other hand, started the day, just 5 points behind THE STAGS AT THE TOP OF THE TABLE.
That's the Hemel Stags of course, but it felt good to type that bit in bold, upper case letters ... while it lasted.
Steve Page, deserves a special mention for dedication beyond the call of today, because he slotted in on the bench for the illness depleted Outlaws, having just put in a full 80 minutes for their 'A' team.
Despite the fact they have lost all of their previous games this season, the Sonics side set about the Outlaws from the off, with a display of attacking play that completely belied their league standing.
In fact, at the midway point of the first half, the visitors had powered their way into a 12-0 lead and were evidently paying scant regard to the league table, the form book or the script that said the Outlaws were favourites to win this game, which, for the record, is the first time that these two sides have ever played against each other.
But Nottingham were back in the game, after their captain George Strachan led his team by example: firstly by bundling his way through a packed defence and taking the ball over for the Outlaws opening try himself, with two Sonics players hanging onto him and then by opening up the Bristol defence and putting Oliver Crick in for the next one.
By half time the home side had turned the tables ... and they led 20-12 at the break.
Some of the people who'd travelled up with the Sonics, blamed the referee for turnaround, claiming he showed bias towards the home side.
Hmm, they must've been unsighted when Mr Edwards gave them a soft penalty inside the first 5 minutes then.
I'm no expert, but the ref didn't seem to do much wrong from where I was watching the game.
But, it's all about perceptions and opinions, exactly the same as it is with all competitive sports ... and the man in the middle, although only human and fallible, calls things right, the vast majority of the time.
And maybe we're all guilty of viewing decisions through rose (or even blue, or maroon) tinted glasses sometimes.
Especially the ones that don't go our way.
Thankfully, the stand at the Harvey Hadden provides great shelter from the ailments, because there was quite a strong wind whipping across the ground ... and in the second half the home side would have that blowing behind their backs.
Before the game started I'd been talking to a Bristol Sonics fan, a very pleasant and knowledgeable chap, who told me his side were holding their own against Coventry Bears at 12-12 last week, with half time approaching, but how they'd conceded a try just before the break and were over run in the second half, eventually losing 42-12.
This afternoon, sadly for those who had travelled so far to watch the game, the second half was very similar to last week's for the west country club.
Though they did start the second half promisingly and then weighed in with a couple of tries right at the death, both which went unconverted (the wind was playing havoc, with kicking towards the school house on Harvey Road), that give the final score more of a respectable look.
Their last try, following a 40 yard run down the left flank, was one to savour.
SPOT THE BALL
It's high and central between the posts.

In between Bristol's flurries at the beginning and end of the second half however, Nottingham were dominant, though the visitors couldn't be faulted for effort throughout and they weren't exactly shy when it came to getting their tackles in.
However, Oliver Crick put the Outlaws well on their way to victory, when he switched play into the path of Sam Campbell, who tore through the wrong-footed Sonics defence to touch down before successfully kicking for a further two points himself, to make the score 26-12.
The game became one way traffic for a while, as a buoyant Nottingham side turned the screw.
The Outlaws deserved to win against their hard working and spirited opponents ... and that was down to a few well worked second half tries, combined with no small amount of craft and guile in the visitors red zone.
Paul Calland provided the highlight of the match, when he fooled everybody else on the pitch by feigning to pass both left, then right, before virtually walking home a try, straight underneath the posts, with both teams stood looking on wondering what on earth he was doing.
A moment that roused almost as much chuckling as it did cheering.

Final score: Nottingham Outlaws 46 v Bristol Sonics 20.
All told, I had a great afternoon.
Two very entertaining games at a bargain price and away in time to watch the Euro 2012 games on TV too ... result!