Hammond Happy Despite Coventry Defeat

Nottingham Rugby, although having had a mixed start to the current, RFU Championship season, could end the year as leaders, or drop down to fifth, as Head Coach Craig Hammond explained around the Archers’ Boxing Day clash away to Coventry, and those upcoming, New Year friendly dances with the British Army, and Gallagher Premiership outfit, Leicester Tigers.

Having now collected four wins from their opening eight games of the season, Nottingham defeating that of Caldy (44-31) and Ampthill (41-28), then Hartpury University (32-20) and newcomers Cambridge (22-19), in successive outings, the Archers have lost their last two outings, on 16 December, away to Bedford Blues, then on Boxing Day in Coventry.

Although it’s been form that has seen the Nottingham club pull a ‘win two-lose two’ run thus far, for Hammond, and his coaching staff over at Lady Bay, it’s been a start to the season that shows the heart, grit, effort, and passion, the players have, and the belief that’s instilled throughout the current squad.

“Coming up to Christmas, we’re pretty happy with this squad, and where we are in the league at the moment,” explained Hammond.

“For this time of year, you’ve got be happy with it; we’ve had seven games (before Coventry), and we’re up there, four points away from the top as well so, were we are now, compared to where we’ve been in recent seasons, at Christmas time, is down to the effort of the boys who’ve worked hard, bought into this year, both on and off the field.

“They’ve been in (and training) since June, so, to now, it shows the kind of team we have here and I’m very proud of the boys and the effort they’ve given; they’ve put a lot into it and the way we’ve all worked to get us to the top end of the table, it shows that effort, and heart, it pays off.”

Nottingham’s Boxing Day opponents, Coventry, and the Archers themselves, are sitting in the fifth/sixth place positions in the league; prior to which Coventry were just five behind their visitors to the Butts Park Arena; victory for Coventry however (they won 37-21) it saw them move level with Nottingham on twenty-two points apiece

Hunting what would be a fourth win themselves, they’ve won three lost three of their six to date, it was also a special day for the hosts – with 150 reasons in which to celebrate in fact.

“On Boxing Day, we were away to Coventry in what was a massive opportunity in front of what was a sell-out crowd,” continued the Archers leader.

“They’re celebrating their 150 Anniversary that day, and putting it all on this game, in front of 4,000 people, so it’ll be great to play in front of that, especially with the emotions they’ll put into it, both as a player and as a coach.

“It’s games like that you want to be involved in – losing, we dropped down a place, but if we won and get the bonus point then we could easily have been top going into the winter break.

“It was a long shot though, especially considering how good Coventry are.

“For us though, it’s game-by-game at the moment and, after the winter break we’ve got seven games to come at home (only had three so far), which is awesome and we like to play here, at Lady Bay, on Friday nights.

“We’re therefore looking forward to putting in some really good performances and staying at the top end of the table; that’s the challenge for us, week-by-week, and, considering how recent years have been, it’s nice to see these improvements.”

With Coventry being the last game for the Archers ahead of the winter break, Hammond et al will return in the New Year, with the first of those Lady Bay games, on Friday 12 January.

That will see them host a London Scottish side currently sitting joint-bottom of the table (level with Cambridge on nine points apiece), however, the two recently announced friendlies are bringing excitement, and some festive cheer to Lady Bay also,

Late January will see the Archers welcome the British Army’s rugby side to Lady Bay (26 January; 19:45), the date in which they would have played last season’s champions, Jersey Reds; a week later and Hammond’s charges will welcome Gallagher Premiership giants, Leicester Tigers (6 February, 19:45; currently ninth in the division, with four wins from nine).

“Facing the British Army, that’s a great, exciting feature for us,” beamed Hammond.

“We’d like to see all the servicemen, and women, coming along for that game, which will be great to be able to fill out Lady Bay for so we’re hoping for a huge crowd.

“Then we’ve got Leicester Tigers in early February, there’s a lot of buzz about that game and we’re really appreciative to the Tigers for letting us put that on here.

“So yes, there’s a couple of really big games coming up, but we’ve got Tuesday’s game first, which we’re massively looking forward to, and then we go from there.”

Keep up-to-date with all the goings on at Lady Bay, and for further information about the two, early 2024 friendlies with the British Army, and Leicester Tigers, via their Facebook here X/Twitter here and website here.

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @NottinghamRugby Nottingham were beaten at Coventry in a cracking game at Butts Park Arena.

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