It has been a season which began in September, with Championship clubs having been invited to take part in the new-look, Premiership Cup, and with it, a minimum of five extra games on the playing calendar.
They were games which included trips to Gloucester and Saracens, and the visit of Harlequins to Lady Bay, in early October; the Archers may now have won any of those early season cup outings, but Head Coach Craig Hammond was both delighted, and proud, of his players, and coaching team.
“(The Premiership Cup) I really enjoyed it as a coach and to be challenging teams like Gloucester, Harlequins and Saracens,” began Hammond following the season opener in the league away to Caldy.
“Realising that it’s pretty special how some of the athletes at that level do things as well.
“I’m really proud of how we went about things, and prepared for those games, working loads as a coaching team, and as a team on the field, which put us in good stead for the start of the season last week.
“From the players’ point of view, playing in front of thousands of people was a great learning experience and opportunity as to how we went in the cup.
“We attacked really well and scored some great tries, including five at Saracens which not many teams do.
“We also scored a few against Quins as well, so it was some really good stuff to build into Caldy last weekend.”
Over those five, Premiership Cup matches, the Archers were seen to run in nearly twenty tries en-route to scoring well over a century of points; David Williams bagged three, and there was two apiece for Marcus Ramage and Ellis Mee, Sam Hollingsworth and Morgan Bunting kicking well with the boot throughout.
The Archers kick-started their Championship season with a four-and-a-half hour, 240+ mile round-trip to Merseyside, and Caldy RFC, a game which saw them claim seven tries with Ramage, Michael Stronge, and Harry Graham, all getting doubles against Caldy, before a season opener at Lady Bay in a battle with Ampthill which saw Ramage again at the double, and Bunting with both a try and a conversion.
Speaking of that Caldy opener though, a game in which the visitors took the foot off the gas a little in the second period, HC Hammond was still delighted with the way in which his players took to the task at hand, and set themselves up for the season ahead.
“Going into Caldy away, four hours plus on the bus, and to get off and play rugby on their pitch”, explained Hammond.
“It’s also a pretty hostile place to go to but we handled it really well, started well, and were up 24-5 at half-time.
“We didn’t come out as expected in the second period and they scored three, quick tries, and the game became pretty close before we pulled a couple of tries away at the end.
“I was really proud of the boys’ effort and determination to win on the road and to get the season off on a high after what was a tough, Premiership Cup campaign, and facing three Premiership teams.
“So yes, I’m really proud of them and how they handled themselves; to be able to go out there, get five points, and to score forty-four, it’s a real credit to how we want to go this year.”
Having started the season with wins at Caldy (44-31), and at home to Ampthill (41-28), Nottingham will look forward to the short trip to the Doncaster Knights this coming weekend (Saturday 4 November) and maintain an early leadership where they are level after two with the Ealing Trailfinders.
In what is a twelve team division (Ampthill, Caldy, Cambridge, Cornish Pirates, Coventry, Doncaster Knights, Ealing Trailfinders, Jersey Reds, London Scottish), the season is set to finish with Caldy visiting Nottingham on 24 May. The two mid-season games will Nottingham in Coventry on Boxing Day (Tuesday 26 December), the last game before the break, then returning with a home game at Lady Bay against London Scottish on Friday 12 January 2024.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @NottinghamRugby Craig Hammond’s side have had a good start to the league.