BATTLING BUFFALOES END LOSING RUN
by Andy Coldrick
Nottingham Outlaws 20 (14) v Bramley Buffaloes 34 (22)
Bramley Buffaloes Head Coach Chris Gardner had good reason to smile on Saturday evening after he had just watched his team end their nine-match losing run with a battling, but well deserved 20-34 success away at Nottingham Outlaws.
John Rourke, Graham Charlesworth and Graham Harrison were all key contributors in this performance; this was though very much a team effort on the day, especially in the second half as the Outlaws applied great pressure to the Buffaloes line.
After the fairly dismal performance against Coventry Bears the week before, Chris Gardner was looking for a response from his team; however the Buffaloes were once again beset by player unavailability prior to the game. After much ringing round and cajoling another 4 players made their debuts (now up to 64 the number of players who have pulled on the Buffaloes shirt this season) and performed with great credit. There were welcome returns to the 17 for Graham Charlesworth, John Rourke and Joe Bartle. Ian Fox started at centre, whilst James Fox replaced Liam Walsh at scrum half. Ricky Clarke and Hedley Coldrick were both on the bench along with Ash Taylor who was carrying an ankle injury and Joe Bartle. The inclusion of Hedley Coldrick, albeit 29 years my junior, denied me the opportunity to don the black and amber and have an influence on the game….a lucky escape for all concerned (boots now back in a cupboard!).
Nottingham Outlaws were missing Dan Reeds from their line-up as he was away on England Lionhearts duty.
The Outlaws took the lead inside the first minute when from the kick-off they re-gathered the ball and worked their way towards the Buffaloes line. On the third tackle non-stop forward George Strachan powered over through some weak tackling. Wright missed the conversion. The Buffaloes re-start went out on the full and it had not been the start needed if we were to be in with a chance of victory. Thankfully the Outlaws failed to find touch from their penalty on half way, superbly caught by Louie Barratt. The Buffaloes responded with an outstanding individual try from Charlesworth on 4 minutes when he scooted on an arcing run from the base of the scrum, out pacing the defence and scoring wide out. Graham Harrison landed a magnificent goal to edge the Buffaloes in front. The game ebbed and flowed, one way then the other as both teams fancied their chances of scoring. It was though the Outlaws, led by the outstanding Adam Millward, who regained the lead on 10 minutes when Reece Needham scored by the posts, going through a huge hole behind the marker defence. Wright converted, 10-6. The Buffaloes started to get some cohesion into their play as John Rourke and Graham Charlesworth started to create opportunities. Louie Barratt dropped a flat pass on 12 minutes with the line open, however that miss only delayed the inevitable by a few minutes when Jason Dodd hit the ball and speed and scythed through the defence to score. Craig Green broke down the left before kicking the ball in-field, this time though there was a fumble when collecting the ball and the danger for the Outlaws passed. John Rourke did extend the lead on 23 minutes when he stretched over from no more than a metre out to score, 10-16. Although both sides were making mistakes it was an entertaining half with first the Outlaws attacking, then the Buffaloes. Bramley were playing some of their best football of the season and with a touch more composure further points would have followed. But the outlaws knew this was a game they could win and following some excellent work from Millward, Strachen and Crick Ian Dannant crossed in the corner on 33 minutes. Again there was no conversion. Just as it looked as though it would be a 2 point ball game at half time Rourke delivered a killer blow when he broke clear to go over under the posts from 10m, Harrison converted; 14-22.
It was agreed that the first score in the second half would be crucial, and so it proved! Neither team could seize the initiative in the early stages of the half, but the Outlaws enjoyed better field position. Bramley’s defence held firm and kept its shape, then on the back of only 2 penalties the Buffaloes got in the second half, Graham Nash dived over from acting half back on 51 minutes to stretch the lead. Harrison kicked his fourth conversion. Nottingham then launched wave after wave of attack but failed to make anything of their superior possession. Paul Calland introduced himself off the bench and tried to find a way through with a series on long and short kicks, but nothing worked. The Buffaloes back line manfully carried the ball up, Nick Fontaine always looked dangerous as he ducked and weaved for an opening. On 62 minutes Oliver Beech scored when from a scrum when a reverse pass put him into space on the blind side to score a well worked try. Wright’s conversion closed the gap to 20-28. The Buffaloes struggled for much of the half to exert any sort of pressure on the Outlaws and the pressure went up a notch on 69 minutes when Graham Harrison got 10 minutes in the sin-bin for striking. Further pressure followed from the Outlaws but the clock was beginning to run down. The game was made safe on 77 minutes when Charlesworth dropped his shoulder and completely outpaced the chasing defence to score from 40m. Barrett goaled to extend the lead to 14 points. Nottingham did force a drop out in the dying moments of the game but that came to nought. The final whistle sparked great scenes amongst players, supporters and coaching staff alike. Long overdue win, achieved in fine style!
This may have been an away win over the only other team that we have beaten this season; however it was a small but sweet reward for everyone associated with the club. It does not solve the problems on the field, but it does provide confidence, belief and a feel good factor within the club. Well done to all concerned and especially coach Chris Gardner.
Game star: For me any one of Millward (Outlaws) or Rourke, Charlesworth, Harrison or Dodd for the Buffaloes. On balance though I would say John Rourke was once again a class apart. He gave the team direction and go forward as well as 2 tries!
Game breaker: No doubt about it, the game was in the balance and another Outlaws score at 20-28 would have made for an extremely nervy final few minutes, however Graham Charlesworth’s solo try on 77 minutes sealed the result.
Coolest Man on the Pitch: Take a bow Hafeez Yesufu (House). Sat on the sidelines looking totally ‘chilled’ whilst still supporting the team, despite being ruled out with a knee injury.
Nottingham Outlaws: 1. Oliver Beech, 2. Ian Dannant, 3. Freddie Humphries, 4. Phillip Weller, 5. Coryn Ward, 6. Oliver Crick, 7. Dan Smith, 8. Adam Millward, 9. Reece Needham, 10. James Sadler, 11. Rory McQueen, 12. Tom Atkinson, 13. George Strachan, Subs; (all used) 14. Will Ephraim, 15. Paul Calland, 16. Shane Wright, 17. Matt Cureton.
Tries: Strachan (1), Needham (10), Dannant (33), Beech (62)
Goals: Wright (2/4)
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Jason Dodd, 2. Craig Green, 3. Louie Barrett, 4. Ian Fox, 5. Nick Fontaine, 6. Graham Charlesworth, 7. James Fox, 8. Dave Parker, 9. John Rourke, 10. Graham Nash, 11. Dean Smith, 12. Benoit Rogers, 13. Graham Harrison, Subs: (all used) 14. Ricky Clarke, 15. Ash Taylor, 16. Joe Bartle, 17. Hedley Coldrick.
Tries: Charlesworth 2 (4 & 77), Rourke 2 (23 & 39), Dodd (15), Nash (51)
Goals: Harrison (4/5), Barratt (1/1)
Final score: 20-34
Referee: Michael Hague
Penalty Count: 11(5) – 6(4)
Sin Binned: Harrison (Buffaloes) 69 mins
Man of the Match:
Nottingham Outlaws: Adam Millward
Bramley Buffaloes: John Rourke