Sherwood Wolf Hunt snatch the County Cup in a thrilling finish against Nottingham Outlaws

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A thrilling photo finish saw Sherwood Wolf Hunt snatch the Nottinghamshire County Cup against rivals Nottingham Outlaws at Lenton Lane.

If Friday night games under the flood lights weren’t special, this one was always going to be a game that changed that.

The County Cup game is a rivalry that stretched back to the 1980s, involving the likes of Garabaldi and Mansfield Storm against Nottingham.

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This year the fire reignited as Outlaws looked to take on ‘young pretenders’ Wolf Hunt.

Mikey Anderson takes the ball inMikey Anderson takes the ball in
Mikey Anderson takes the ball in

With the two teams’ official Midlands league game being just over a month away, this was a great opportunity for the two teams to size each other up.

With some notable absentees from the Wolf Hunt line up, head coach Glenn Holt managed to shuffle his squad to make get the team he wanted.

The return of former Man of Steel winner Charlie Mason into the squad wasn’t enough of a boost as the addition of new international signing Ryan Hogg from Ireland brought a wealth of knowledge to the team from playing in the Ireland national set-up.

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Good performances from Josh Heald, Ben Kelly and Tyler Morgan in last week’s demolition job of Swindon St. George meant they kept their place in the matchday squad.

Aidan Butler scores for Outlaws.Aidan Butler scores for Outlaws.
Aidan Butler scores for Outlaws.

It was the home side that broke the deadlock first.

Moving the ball down the field they managed to just power their way over the line on the last tackle of the set, Outlaws clearly wanting to put an early marker down on this game.

It was just after the 20-minute mark that Sherwood got themselves back into the game when some good work and hard running put them on the front field in terms of field position.

It was a pick and go from the ruck that got full-back Chris Perceval over the line for Wolf Hunt’s first score of the night.

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Coryn Ward puts in a big hit.Coryn Ward puts in a big hit.
Coryn Ward puts in a big hit.

But he went from hero to zero no more than five minutes later. A high shot leading with the shoulder on an Outlaw attacker and the Aussie was sat in the bin for 10 minutes.

A moment of magic and speed occurred soon after.

With the Outlaws’ defensive line speed looking quick and well drilled, Wolf Hunt looked pinned inside their own 10m line.

But good ball movement and a well timed off-load on the 20m line opened up a field worth of space in front of speed demon Matt Cahill.

Sherwood Wolf Hunt - County Cup winners against Nottingham Outlaws.Sherwood Wolf Hunt - County Cup winners against Nottingham Outlaws.
Sherwood Wolf Hunt - County Cup winners against Nottingham Outlaws.

Romping his way down the line and easily stepping aside the two onrushing defenders, he handed full control of the game to Sherwood.

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But just seconds before half-time, Nottingham managed to close the gap on the scoreboard.

Getting a late six-again call from the referee, they moved the ball forward and over the whitewash.

The conversion meant the scores at the break stood at 12-10 in favour of the visitors.

Into the second half and it was Wolf Hunt who started the brighter and two tries in seven minutes opened up a solid lead.

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The first camefrom John-Ross Ward with a chip over the top, which he chased down to score the try before converting it himself.

The second, and his second of the day, came from Chris Perceval.

A 65m run through the defensive line, saw him weave in between defenders to put Sherwood into a commanding lead and the Outlaws wondering what had just hit them.

After stoppages for injuries, Nottingham got themselves back into the game with repeat sets from a goal line drop-out.

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They moved the ball out wide to the left to get the try they desperately needed to stay in touch.

Outlaws’ tails were well and truly up at this point.

Again, with back-to-back sets they moved the ball downfield, this time scoring underneath the sticks to make for an easy conversion and it was game on.

Wolf Hunt extended their lead back out midway through the second half.

Some good work, helped along with calls of six again from the referee, got them their reward.

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Moving the ball far out left, a well-timed pass from Perceval was enough to put Caius Tweed through on goal.

Outlaws set up a final five minutes that were not to be missed.

With constant calls of six again, they scored a try on the back of an 11-tackle set to set up a photo finish.

The scores with just minutes left on the clock stood at 30-26 in favour of the young pretenders.

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Bodies were starting to become increasingly tired by this point as the second half hit 50 minutes due to injuries.

But it was too little too late for Nottingham as Wolf Hunt retrieved the ball from a high kick.

Taking it into a tackle the referee blew for full time, and the County Cup was heading back to Mansfield.

It was a fantastic spectacle of rugby league that whetted the appetite for the league game at Debdale Park later in the season.

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