After missing the Saracens v Sale game on Saturday in favour of the Rugby League World Cup Final I decided I needed to get my rugby union fix for the weekend. In the same way I thought Barnsley was a good place to stay to go to Manchester; Nottingham felt as if it was on my way home! It turned out that presumption was the more accurate of the 2 – I did fail Geography at school and how the mileage on my car shows that!
I made my way to Meadow Lane rather than Meadowhall as I told a colleague on Monday; that’s a place I’d never go to by choice, shopping?? Only if I absolutely have to! Rugby on the other hand, every time! A Championship fixture awaited me at the home of Notts County between Nottingham Rugby and the Cornish Pirates teams lying in 9th and 6th position in the league (according to my maths after the fact)
I arrived at the ground early having never been there and managed to park very easily; I headed to the Sports Bar and had a chat with a very lovely lady who was clearly a big fan as well as a volunteer. I also, I must confess watched some Wendyball while I waited. Nottingham went into the game on the back of only 3 wins to 6 losses, the Pirates the other way round. As the fans arrived I realised I’d made a schoolgirl error in wearing my black Saracens top and red hoodie – Pirates colours, oops! In common with the crowd at rugby league the people I was sitting amongst were very friendly, clearly knowledgeable and passionate about their team.
The teams took to the pitch and one noticeable thing straight away was that they must grow them big in Cornwall, the Pirates had a clear size advantage, and it would be interesting to see if that made a difference. And so the battle commenced there were I felt a lot of penalties awarded during the game and the first of those was awarded against Nottingham for offside; the resulting lineout wasn’t straight so we had the first scrum of the day. A bit quicker than the first scrum in the game at the Millenium on Saturday; 46 minutes, how amazing! It always strikes me when I watch rugby below Premiership level that the scrums seem to be working better this season with the change in the way they work. It tends to remove the boredom factor of scrums being set/reset etc. The next penalty again awarded against the home team this time it was in a position for a kick at goal, duly converted by the Pirates no 10 Angus Sinclair.
There was some foul play of some description, missed by the crowd and both teams went down to men as Nottingham’s Tom Calladine and Pirates’ James Sandford were sent for a 10 minute ‘rest’. Nottingham played some great running rugby as they did a fair bit during the game but the ball was lost as Matthew Jarvis seemed to take his eye off the ball. Jarvis was able to make amends when his team were awarded a penalty after a scrum rose up – he kicked the 3 points taking his personal tally for Nottingham to 100 points, no mean feat! The notes I took during the game tell me that Pirates gave away a lot of penalties in the next passage of play, the lineout after a great kick to the corner from one saw a great rolling maul and James Wilson scored a well-deserved forwards try for Nottingham and Jarvis converted to give the home team a 10 to 3 advantage.
Nottingham had a lot of possession in the first half, but the scores were evened up when Matt Evans received a great inside pass and ran in to score in the corner. Angus Sinclair scored a great conversion from the touchline to take the scores to 10 a piece. One event during a lineout could have had terrible consequences when the Pirates lifters simply dropped James Sandford from quite a height! Luckily he got up; I’m not so sure he would have found it as funny as his team mates. I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of rugby; there was a lot of good play both from the forwards and the running backs.
Nottingham took the lead in the second half with a great backs try this time Ryan Hough made a penetrating run and the ball was then passed across the line to Sean Morris who ran in to score. Being a winger’s try this meant a kick from the touchline, impressively scored by Jarvis. Pirates pulled back 3 points after Nottingham were penalised after a rolling maul by the men from Cornwall; replacement Kieran Hallett slotted the ball between the posts to take the score to Nottingham 17 Pirates 13.
The next scoring opportunity came the home team’s way after they gave away a penalty but won the lineout; something they did a fair few times on the Pirates throw in. Tom Calladine playing at flanker made a run worthy of a winger passing the ball to Finlay Barham – Barham passed to Sean Morris who ran in for his second try. Now an unpopular comment for the home fans, the pass looked blatantly forward to me; but clearly not the officials and so with yet another tough goal line conversion scored by Jarvis the lead was extended to 24 to 13.
Several penalties were exchanged and the Pirates made a great kick to the corner, I think maybe at this stage Nottingham had a bit of a rest, not a good idea with a lineout close to your own line. The ball was won by the Pirates and ended in Matt Evans hands who ran through very easily to score, the conversion took the score to a very tight 24 to 20. Re-reading my notes it was notable that the Nottingham forwards either won or disrupted many of the Pirates lineouts, I’d be interested to see the stats. However Pirates won an important lineout after yet another penalty given as Jarvis passed a ball to Morris of the hospital ball variety; Pirates were up on him quickly and the penalty was awarded. Another great kick to touch saw the second rolling maul type try this time for Pirates replacement Rob Elleway. The theme of great conversions also continued as Craig Holland kicked from close to the touch line. The visitors went into the lead for the first time Nottingham 24 Pirates 27. It looked like heartbreak might be about to happen.
However after a couple of knock ons and penalties a kickable opportunity was presented to Jarvis with the last kick of the game; in spite of the pressure he converted to end the game with the scores even at 27 apiece. A fair score I would say as a neutral in spite of the fact that the home team led for most of the game. The game was thoroughly enjoyable and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon – who needs to shop!