13th September 2015, 12:38
No all Welsh Final as Raiders are beaten
Nottingham Outlaws powered their way into the National Conference South play-off final with a commanding 36-8 victory over Welsh outfit Raiders RL at Highfields on Saturday. In an assured performance the Outlaws had too much try-scoring...
Nottingham Outlaws powered their way into the National Conference South play-off final with a commanding 36-8 victory over Welsh outfit Raiders RL at Highfields on Saturday. In an assured performance the Outlaws had too much try-scoring potential for a hard-working Raiders side that battled for the full 80 but eventually succumbed to a seven try's to two defeat as the Outlaws marched into next weeks final showdown with Valley Cougars.
The Outlaws went into the match sporting a few changes to the side that completed their home campaign with last weekend's victory over Leicester. Back into the side came Adam Simm who paired up with Jimmy Goodwin in the centres whilst Paul Calland and Si Morton both returned to the side to add significant experience to the squad that did the business against their East Midlands rivals last weekend.
Despite starting as slight favourites the Outlaws were very much under the cosh in the opening stages as a youthful-looking Raiders outfit used the following breeze to their advantage, moving the ball at pace and putting the Outlaws under early, sustained pressure. After four minutes of frenetic play in and around the Outlaws red zone the Welsh outfit finally capitalised on their field position when they moved the ball to the left and back to the right and Shane Edwards swept in to open the scoring as the Outlaws found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 score line.
Having taken an early lead, the Raiders could and most probably should have capitalised further but twice in succession they looked to have worked an overlap only to fluff the chance when they opted to kick the ball when good hands would more than likely have seen them score.
Despite falling behind the Outlaws had weathered the early storm without too much damage and finally they began to make their presence felt in the match, led by some superb tactical kicking by Paul Calland. First the footballing wizard forced a drop out under the posts with a superbly weighted grubber and then the wily tactician went one better when another awkward grubber sat up in the visitors goal line and Oliver Dale was first to reach the ball and touch down for a superb Outlaws try that levelled the game at 4-4.
Having sensed the Raiders defence was susceptible to the short kicking game master tactician Calland was not about to let them off the hook! Once again he forced the visitors to drop out under the sticks with yet another superb kick into the in-goal area and then on the restart he went one better, putting in a short kick into the try zone from acting half, before winning the race to ball to score a superb solo effort.
When Dan Smith added the extras the Outlaws had nudged ahead 10-6 with twenty minutes of the match played. It was a lead that the Outlaws were destined to keep for the remainder of the game.
Having hit the front the Outlaws began to turn the screw on their visitors who were clearly still recovering from the two-try Outlaws salvo and their prospects looked even bleaker when right winger Jon Christie broke from deep inside his own half before unloading to leading scorer Adrian Chaima. Once the left wing flyer took the ball there was only ever going to be one winner as the leagues leading scorer broke clear and sprinted clear to plant the ball under the sticks for try number 23 for the season whilst extending the home lead to 16-4 as the first half drew to a close.
During half time coach Shepherd took the opportunity to re-shuffle his deck, bringing long-striding Pat Crummay on to the field to replace the injured Oliver Dale and Wilo Ephraim cam on to add some oomph to the forwards.
Straight from the re-start the Outlaws hit the straps with the breeze at their backs and a great break by the effervescent George Strachan saw the loose forward smash through the first line of defence before off-loading superbly to Oliver Crick who then slipped an even better pass to Adam Cunliffe who zipped under the posts for the try of the match so far. Indeed at 22-4 the Outlaws were already well on to the way to cementing their place in the final!
Despite the early Cunliffe try the Outlaws were in no mood to take their foot of the gas and within six minutes the gap grew even larger when Joe Barton used his size and upper body strength to smash his way over from thirty metres out, breaking through three tackles for a superb prop forwards try that opened up a commanding 26-4 Outlaws lead that could have been even better moments later only for an Adrian Chaima touchdown from a Calland kick to be disallowed for an offside call.
Although being on the wrong end of the 26-4 scoreline the Raiders refused to throw in the towel and they showed great character by clawing their way back into a game that was quickly running away from them. Indeed they not only stopped the Outlaws try scoring machine but they also managed to gain more and more possession and after a few near misses Shane Edwards bagged his second try of the game to reduce the arrears to 26-8.
Despite fifteen minutes of Raiders domination the Outlaws were still three scores ahead and with eight minutes of the match remaining they put the game to bed when big Pat Crummay used his size and reach to score a fine try not dissimilar to the earlier Joe Barton effort and then the big utility player turned from try scorer to try creator as he once again broke the Raiders line down the left channel.
This time Crummay showed he not only has size and strength but also good hands as he released the supporting George Strachan who promptly smashed his way over for probably the most deserved try of the afternoon. In doing so the hard working club skipper capped a superb afternoons work and also cemented his grip on a well earned man of the match trophy and a bottle of bubbly to celebrate!.
After the conversion the referee drew proceedings to a close and the Outlaws players and supporters celebrated a hard-earned win in a match that they controlled superbly despite plenty of resistance from an excellent Raiders side.
After the game coach Shepherd expressed his pleasure and relief at the result, adding "this week has been a tough one for me personally. Some real selection dilemmas meant that I have had to leave players out of the squad who have been with us all season and that is a hard thing to do. However, the players I brought in all did a great job today to justify their selection so for me as a coach I cant ask for much more than that"
Indeed with all of the players reporting a clan bill of health all eyes are now on the trip to Bath next week in what promises to be a real humdinger of a final between the top two teams in the division!