Nuns wilt in the sun
By Huw Thomas
The Nuns couldn't maintain a half time lead as they miss out at Derby
The Nuns faced Derby for the last away game of the 2017-18 season and again there were changes to the squad through injury and un-availability. Coming back in were Adie Hall, Elliott Brown and Richard Johnston with Sam Wallis, Arron Skyrme, Dan Southall and Ben Kirby all ruled out through injury and Tom Aherne unavailable. Marcus Holt and George Wallis were joined on a new bench by Joji Volaikisuva, who’d make his league debut.
The game was played in lovely Spring conditions with the sun finally out and it was also the official opening of Derby’s RFU installed 3G pitch. With perfect playing conditions the tone was set for attacking rugby.
Derby were first on the score sheet an flyhalf Castledine knocked over a penalty on 4 minutes, but it didn’t take the Nuns long to get into their stride. Elliott Brown picked a ball from a centre field ruck and on an angled run scored in the corner from 50m out. Huw Thomas put the conversion wide. 5-3 to the Nuns.
Four minutes later the Nuns were on the score sheet again, from a line out on the Derby 22m the ball was recycled a couple of phases and then Jackson Hughes cut through the defensive line and drew the last man to put Richard Johnston in for the try which was upgraded by Thomas. 12-3 Nuns.
For the next 15 minutes play was between the 22m’s with neither side getting a foot hold in territory. But 2 tries in 5 minutes from the host saw them take the lead 17-12 after 31 minutes.
The Nuns finished the half on a high though, after a sustained period of pressure Brown made another break after a switch from a scrum. He was brought down 5m short of the line but the Derby scrum half was yellow carded for slowing the ball down. From the resulting scrum Tom Smitham dipped over the line and Thomas converted for the Nuns to hold a 19-17 lead at the whistle.
The second half didn’t start as to plan for the visitors. A misjudged kick off receipt gave the host early possession and after some pressure a penalty was awarded under the posts which was duly converted, 20-19 to Derby after 42 minutes.
On 48 minutes though the lead was taken back by the Nuns. Initially from a Hughes break the ball was taken into the home 22m. After some phases and then a penalty a 5m lineout was taken. 3 phases later the ball was recycled and Moses Liwaliwa, playing in an unaccustomed flank position, barrelled over for a try converted by Thomas. 26-20 to the Nuns.
Derby were next to score and it was a crucial one to. The Nuns had possession on half way but a loose pass was intercepted. After a few phases of play the home winger rounded his man to score which was unconverted 26-25 to the Nuns.
On 65 minutes Derby scored again which was converted. It was after a spell of play when the nuns couldn’t clear their lines properly or retain possession once further up the field. 32-26 to Derby.
On 74 minutes Derby returned a kick back with interest and then attacked wide to score a well-executed try at pace which took the score to 39-26.
But they Nuns weren’t quite done yet and from the kick off Hughes claim a deep kick and after beating a couple of defenders, kept the ball alive with an offload to Bullions who intern found Joji Volaikisuva. His flick inside was knocked back by a Derby defender but Rudi Reid picked up the loose ball and carried it 15m to score 5m in from touch. Elliott Brown’s conversion just went wide, 39-31.
Was there chance to claim another try and a losing bonus point, yes but unfortunately it was Derby who scored with the last play of the game from a quick touchline break.
Final score 44-31. It was a game that the Nuns again had opportunities to finish better but losing possession in the second half and a few too many missed tackles didn’t help. On the positive side there was plenty of good attack on show again with 5 tries to show.
Ben Holmes, Dan Oselton, Sam Greening, Rudi Reid, Adie Hall, Moses Liwaliwa, Callum Grant-Smith, Todd Bullions, Tom Smitham, Huw Thomas, Adam Stauvers, Elliott Brown, Richard Johnston, Manasa Volaikisuva, Jackson Hughes Reps: Joji Volaikisuva, George Wallis, Marcus Holt
Tries: Brown, Johnston, Smitham, Liwaliwa, Reid
Conversions: Thomas x 3