Sherwood Wolf Hunt RLFC did themselves proud in defeat on their first outing in the Midlands Premier Rugby League last weekend.
Away to local rivals Nottingham Outlaws, the Mansfield club were narrowly beaten 26-12 in a close-fought dual between Nottinghamshire’s only rugby league clubs.
In only their second season the Wolf Hunt held a team that had beaten them by 60 points this time last year.
Based at Nottingham University’s Highfield site, the experienced Outlaws had several first teamers in their line-up dues to low numbers.
The Wolf Hunt brought a full squad of 20, many of whom were playing their first game of rugby league ever.
The game started closely with both teams out tackling each other in defence.
After 15 minutes it was the Outlaws that broke to deadlock with a score in the corner from first team winger Jimmy Goodwin.
The conversion was missed and the game restarted with the same hard forward battle, both teams using their battering rams to tire the opposition.
It was Nottingham that scored next again in the corner after 25 minutes, only to miss the conversion.
The Wolf Hunt defence was solid in the middle and making progress with their bigger pack and found themselves in the Outlaws’ back yard.
Excellent ball movement from Matt Upton and new recruit centre Michael Allen put 17-year-old substitute winger Josh Kinta in at the corner with a burst of youthful pace.
The game continued to ebb and flow with both defences holding out, until just before the 40 minute mark when a lucky bounce in the corner allowed the Outlaws in to make it 12-4 at half-time.
The game was becoming a battle, with the Wolf Hunt still definitely in on the action.
The game continued to be a very hard fought close encounter, the Wolf Hunt winning the forward battle, with the Outlaws having a little more experience and guile in the halves.
That experience took it toll soon after half-time with Outlaws again going in on the flanks, again with no conversion.
That brought a mighty response from the sizable Wolf Hunt pack, well managed by Matt Upton and Scott Thacker in the halves, and 17-year-old former Featherstone Lions hooker Luke Walters, from Shirebrook.
The Outlaws were battered and bruised for the middle 20 minutes as the Wolf Hunt forwards got on a roll, and this brought two storming running tries to the right of the sticks from new dad Gavin Saxby, carrying three men over the line each time.
His hat trick came later in the weekend with the birth of his first daughter!
With 15 minutes to go the score was 16-12 in favour of the home side.
As the urgency kicked in for them, so did their experience.
The inexperienced replacements for the Wolf Hunt lacked a little composure and allowed the Outlaws several offloads opportunities in the tackle.
This gave the Outlaws lots of possession which they duly turned into the extra 10 points they needed, scoring one last try with an excellent flick pass from the tackle to allow Barney McGrew to score under the sticks.
The conversion was made leaving the Outlaws winners by 26 -12.
Wolf Hunt coach Carl Hardwick had mixed feelings, saying: “The result was both fantastic and disappointing.
“To hold a very experienced Outlaws team so close this early is an amazing effort from our lads, but at the same time I thought we had them until 15 minutes out. “Experience told as we blooded several new players, who played out of their skins, but lacked a little composure at times.
“Overall we are very proud of our lads and the effort they put in. We will get better as we move forward.”
Outlaws’ head coach and manager Joe Sheppard, said : “This was a fantastic effort by both teams, we had our work cut out to cope with the Wolf Hunt.
“To say this is only their second season and 10th game ever, the result is a credit to the hard work put in by all at the Wolf Hunt.”
Sherwood Wolf Hunt host Buxton Bulls at Debdale Park in Mansfield Woodhouse this Saturday (2.30pm).
This should prove to be another battle as the Bulls smashed a brand new Wolf Hunt 70-6 last year. All the signs are that the Wolf Hunt are out for revenge this time around.