By ANDI STARR
NOT since 2005 have the Green and Whites tasted victory
in their opening league game.
On that occasion they beat Rotherham to get their final season
at Ireland Avenue off to a winning start.
The hoodoo was finally put to bed with a comeback 34-29 win over
Leeds Carnegie at Meadow Lane Stadium on Friday night (August,
With less than half an hour gone, however, most Nottingham
supporters can be forgiven for any thoughts of "here we go
Carnegie had looked sharp and dangerous as they forced a couple
of tries in the first quarter. And with Joe Ford in good kicking
form they led 3-20 and were looking good for an emphatic win.
And so, it is a credit to Nottingham that they turned things
around, dominated the second half, and got that opening day win
that has so often eluded them.
A bright start saw James Arlidge kick them into an early
The visitors were soon level, with a penalty from Ford who had
mishit a drop goal attempt as the match referee was allowing
The first try of the game followed within five minutes as Leeds
ran strongly, creating an overlap down the left for full-back
Stephen McColl to break through. Ford added the conversion and
quickly added his second penalty of the evening to make it
It got worse for Nottingham as the visitors drove from a close
range lineout, as back row Jacob Rowan powered over. Ford made no
mistake and extended the lead further with the conversion.
And so after 23 minutes, the Green and Whites faced a 17 point
deficit. But from that point on they began to work their way back
into the game.
Only their second penalty of the evening saw them go close as
Arlidge put up a testing cross-field kick that almost brought a
try. And with the Leeds' defence under serious sustained pressure
for the first time in the game a try looked likely.
It came as the pack drove from a close range lineout, with prop
Michael Holford touching down and Arlidge converting.
Instantaneously, there was a noticeable increase in the pace of
Nottingham's game but it was Leeds who got the next score as Ford
slotted over his third penalty to make it 10-23.
But another catch and drive from the Nottingham pack drew in the
defence, creating space out wide to give Andrew Savage a try in the
corn. Arlidge converted to bring the Green and Whites back to
17-23 at half-time.
And it was a second from Savage, minutes after the re-start,
that put them back in front.
The visitors made a mess of their attempt to field the kick-off,
and Nottingham made them pay. Matt Parr and Dan Montagu combined
well down the middle and after Tim Streather had gone close it was
Savage who squeezed over with Arlidge making it 24-23 with the
Unfortunately Savage then got a yellow card as Leeds countered
strongly down the left.
Ford kicked the resulting penalty to regain the lead for the
visitors, but the home side were soon back in front as Leeds found
themselves in all sorts of trouble under their own posts.
A knock on saw the ball go loose in the in-goal area and it took
some desperate defence to keep Nottingham out. But from the
resulting five-metre scrum it was No. 8 Alex Shaw who capped his
man-of-the-match performance with the bonus point try, Arlidge
converting to make it 31-26.
A late penalty from Arlidge looked to have given Nottingham the
comfort of an eight point lead, meaning the visitors needed two
scores to steal it. But when Ford put over his fifth penalty of the
game, the contest was heading toward a cliff-hanger ending.
Nottingham managed to keep play in Leeds' defensive 22m, and
eventually closed the game out when they forced a penalty in the
fifth minute of time added on.
Arlidge put his kick just wide, but that signalled the final
whistle and huge cheers from the home crowd, who could not fail to
have been impressed with the character their heroes had shown in
turning a potential defeat into a very worthy and deserved win.
It was a win that will have been particularly pleasing for new
coach Martin Haag. While, getting that "opening day" monkey off
their backs was one thing, the manner in which it was achieved was
cause for satisfaction.
NOTTINGHAM RUGBY 34 (A Savage 2 M Holford A
Shaw try; J Adrlidge 4 conv; J Arlidge 2 pen) LEEDS
CARNEGIE 29 (S McColl J Rowan try; J Ford 2 conv; J Ford 5
Nottingham Rugby: 15 A Savage 14 R Hough 13 T
Streather 12 J Munro 11 R Crane 10 J Arlidge 9 S Romans1 M Parr 2 J
Duffey 3 M Holford (R Bower 74 mins) 4 D Montagu (J Quinn 61mins) 5
N Rouse 6 R Cooper (T Calladine 77 mins) 7 B Wilson 8 A Shaw.
Replacements from: 16 Jimmy Stevens 17 Ryan
Bower 18 Joe Quinn 19 Tom Calladine 20 Finlay Barnham 21 Rory Lynn
22 Joe Cobden.
Leeds Carnegie: 15 S McColl 14 C Wilson (J
Chisholm 61mins) 13 Pete Lucock 12 F Burdon 11 D Doherty 10 J Ford
9 J Doherty (C Hampson 48mins) 1 L Imiolek (B Harris 70mins) 2 P
Nilsen (J Graham 61mins) 3 Ben Hooper 4 C Green (D Tussac 61 mins)
5 D Hemingway 6 R Beck 7 J Rowan 8 R Burrows (D Burrow 68mins)
Replacements from: 16 J Graham 17 B Harris 18 D
Tussac 19 M Myerscough 20 D Barrow 21 C Hampson 22 J Chisholm.
Referee: L ApGeraint-Roberts
Attendance: 1,536 at Meadow Lane