Having battled through a tough, Premiership Cup campaign, where the Archers faced that of Gloucester, Hartpury University, Saracens, Coventry, and Harlequins, throughout September and early October, a much welcome return to league action was played out this past weekend.
In the opening game of the 2023-24 Championship season, Nottingham faced a 240+ mile, four-and-a-half hour round trip to Merseyside, and hosts Caldy RFC, where a 75-point game ensued, the hosts even opening the scoring at the start of each half.
It took them just six minutes to cross at the start of the first, Rhys Hayes breaking through before the ball reaches Will Robinson to cross in the corner, after which the hosts received an onslaught as Nottingham ran in four unanswered tries in the space of fifteen minutes.
The first came on the back of a succession of penalties, to both sides, before a kick to the corner was initially cleared by the hosts, only for the Archers to return it and, four phases later, Marcus Ramage crosses for his first of the afternoon, Morgan Bunting adding a successful conversion.
Ten minutes later and, within the space of six, Nottingham went from 7-5 to 24-5 in front, Michael Stronge with an easy try in the corner on 25, then Ramage added his second a couple of minutes later when a near 50 metre gain sees the Archers player walk it over – both conversions however were unsuccessful.
A little bit more time elapsed before Nottingham’s fourth try arrived, the visiting backs and wingers devastating moving forwards and this time it’s Harry Graham who crosses, and Bunting adds a second conversion, the visiting Archers going in 24-5 to the good at the break.
As was with the start of the first, Caldy did the same in the same second period, scoring first; a move down the right and four scrums later in the middle sees them cross for a second time, this from JJ Dickinson on 47; five minutes they added another to continue closing the gap when straight back on the attack, Lewis Barker crossing with a fine, individual effort.
The visitors kept their noses in front throughout and the boot of Morgan Bunting added to the score when he kicked a penalty in front of the posts to move the lead back to double figures; that didn’t last however and the hosts saw themselves within three shortly after, Robinson crossing for his second of the game following a great move.
Around a plethora of changes from the visitors, the Archers re-awakened to add two further tries when first Graham crossed in the corner for his second of the game, despite challenges, then Stronge also doubled up following a steal and a 40 metre sprint to the line, the visitors suddenly back into a double digit advantage.
The closing stages would see both sides add another score, first the hosts crossed, and converted, before they got caught red-handed and George Cox added another easy score in the dying seconds, Samuel Hollingsworth, on for the closing stages for his 50 appearance in Archers colours, with a successful conversion to complete a 44-31 win.
Nottingham – Kai Owen, Harry Clayton, Xavier Valentine, Chayrel Joussain, Tom Mantz, Scott Hall, Nathan Tweedy (capt), Richard Clift, Morgan Bunting, Michael Stronge, Harry Graham, Marcus Ramage, Woodward, David Williams, Ellis Mee
Meanwhile, and moving down the rugby pyramid, there was plenty of action involving clubs from across Nottinghamshire which included wins for Paviors, Meden Vale, Keyworth, and West Bridgford IIs, the latter by a 50-point margin, and the former by 40+, both at home.
Of the four, local clubs, residing in the Regional 2 Midlands North division, Paviors were the only victors, seeing off visitors Sutton Coldfield 54-12 whilst West Bridgford saw their home game with Melbourne postponed, and there was defeat for both Mellish (22-16 at home to Walsall), and Newark (33-10 at Lichfield).
Front Row Steven Allen stepped onto the field for an impressive, 300th appearance, in Paviors’ home success over Sutton Coldfield as his side racked up eight tries and seven conversions; Owen Taylor and Alexander Rimmington crossed twice each whilst Chris Eggleshaw, Joshua Flanagan, Matt Molyneux, and Tom Gladwin also registered, George Billam with seven conversions.
Paviors – Steve Allen, Owen Taylor, Jake Baldry, Theo Collier, Aaron Langan, Joshua Flanagan, Joshua Alton-Smith, Chris Eggleshaw, Ben Taylor, George Billam, Alexander Rimmington, Douglas Billam (capt), Morgan Jones, Noah Bhatia, Matt Molyneux
The two Notts clubs in the Counties 1 Midlands East (North) met as Mansfield (now 3-1-3) and Southwell (now 2-1-3) shared the spoils in a 30-30 draw, the two separated by Boston, in fifth and seventh respectively; all three Notts clubs in action in the Counties 2 Midlands East (North) meanwhile suffered defeat, Newark IIs the narrowest when home to Ashbourne, 22-19; Ashfield went down 24-13 at Grimsby; and Nottingham Casuals suffered defeat, 41-29, away to leaders Kesteven.
The top two of Kesteven and Ashbourne are already creating a little daylight between themselves and the rest of the division, with Casuals and Moderns third and fourth respectively, Moderns though with a game in hand.
Meden Vale picked up a decent home win in the Counties 3 Midlands East North, defeating visitors Cleethorpes 29-12; victory for the Notts side saw them move into joint-second in the division, alongside a plethora of clubs on 24 points apiece – Joe Devito, Curtis Williams, Brad Rhodes all crossed for Vale (also added a penalty try), whilst Ricky Geeson added two conversions and a penalty to the score.
There was also plenty of action in the Central division with six local sides playing, and two regional dust-ups witnessed; Keyworth doubled up on visitors Southwell IIs to claim a 38-15 success, and Mellish IIs edged their visitors, Nottinghamians, 32-27; West Bridgford IIs romped to a 64-14 home win over Ashbourne IIs, whilst Paviors IIs ere edged, 47-35, in a high-scoring game at home to Long Eaton IIs.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @NottinghamRugby a win on the road at Caldy for Nottingham.