April 15, 2017
Nottingham Rugby ended the season in style with a comprehensive 46-19 victory against London Scottish, at the Richmond Athletic Ground on Saturday.
The Greens bagged eight tries in total, thanks to a hat-trick from James Stephenson, a brace of tries from Ben Hooper and single scores from TJ Harris, Billy Robinson and Charlie Thacker, all helping Nottingham to secure their third, 40-plus point win in a row.
The Green and Whites headed into the game in good form, following wins over Rotherham and the British Army, and head coach Ian Costello opted to make three changes to the side that put 47 points on the Titans in their last league fixture.
In the front row, TJ Harris came in at hooker, whilst tighthead prop Ben Hooper was promoted from the bench to take the place of Will Stuart.
The only change in the backline saw Billy Robinson move to the right wing to allow George Worth to drop in at full back, with Charlie Thacker featuring amongst the replacements.
Fly half Gearoid Lyons returned from a four-week suspension to claim a place on the bench, whilst prop Tom Heard also made a comeback to the first team squad.
The last time the two teams met, in the very first fixture of the season, Nottingham edged a tight game by just three points, winning 25-22, and with both sides having similar seasons, both sitting in mid-table positions, another close game was expected but it was Nottingham who started brighter and placed themselves firmly in front, via two tries inside the opening eight minutes.
Hooper touched down from the rolling maul with 2 minutes gone, before more excellent attacking play saw James Stephenson receive the ball on the wing to go over in the corner to give the Greens a 12-0 advantage.
Scottish thought they’d pulled a score back on 12 minutes, only for the referee to pull the play back just as Jason Harries crossed the whitewash, as the home crowd’s premature celebrations were silenced.
Nottingham were playing like a team possessed, as they battle forward again and found their third try of the day, again from a rolling maul, as Harris crossed over to score, on his final appearance for the club, in the 20th minute.
The Green and Whites weren’t finished, as they then secured a bonus point on 39 minutes, via Hooper’s second try of the day. Following some excellent work down the left from Robinson and Darryl Veenendaal, the prop was on hand to finish the job and push over the remaining five meters. Eden then converted what was a difficult kick in blustery conditions, to give Nottingham a commanding 24-0 lead.
With Scottish struggling to make a single inroad into Nottingham’s 22, it looked like they were to head into the changing rooms without a single point for their efforts. However, right at the death, some clever play from Peter Lydon saw him collect his own kick down the right wing and go over in the corner. The fullback then converted his own try, giving the hosts a huge boost as the half time whistle sounded.
Not unexpectedly, the Green and Whites returned to the field to face a torrent of home attacking pressure, with the Scots eventually breaking through a battling Notts defence on 47 minutes. Harries getting the score, with Lydon converting.
Five minutes later, it was Nottingham who took back control of the game, as Stephenson was able to take the wind out of Scottish sails with his second try of the day. Eden converted the resulting kick, to hand the advantage firmly back to the Green & Whites.
Stephenson then claimed his hat-trick on the hour mark, after a superb piece of play which first saw the winger force a turn-over from Scottish before seconds later, dodging two tackles and running 30 meters to claim his well-deserved prize.
A 67th minute yellow card to Scottish’s Lydon, for a high tackle on Murray McConnell, then almost instantaneously let in Billy Robinson for Nottingham’s seventh try of the game, and all but sealing victory for Costello’s side.
Harries then grabbed a late consolation try for the hosts, in the dying seconds of the game, before Thacker finished off proceedings for Nottingham, with the final move of the game.
Despite the big win, Bedford’s last-gasp draw at Cornish Pirates, leaves Nottingham with a ninth-place finish in the league standings, just one point behind Scottish and two behind the Blues.
Nottingham staff and players now look forward to some rest and recuperation over the next couple of months before pre-season preparations begin for start the 2017/18 campaign, where the Green and Whites will be looking to build on the foundations which have been laid by Costello over the last ten months.
Match photos courtesy of Prime Media Images.