We travelled to Cross Green for our first encounter with Otley 2nd team since they dropped from the Yorkshire Merit League Premiership where our Foresters ply their trade. They are a team that have had mixed fortunes of recent years, hence dropping down into our league, but none the less a second team from a club of Otleys statue was likely to offer a stern test to the lads.
To add to the challenge, we were without the two Toms in the front row, Carlisle & Walker, and regular back rowers Dan Benson and Tom Baines were away on a romantic weekend in the lakes (I’m not sure if anyone else was there or not?). Thankfully, we were able to call on the experienced Chris Swainson to fill a slot in the back row and welcomed Harry Bullough onto the bench looking to test out his long term knee injury.
Otley started out brightly and were playing most of the attacking rugby in the opening exchanges but the visitors defence was up to the task and thwarted the host’s aspirations. The men in green then went on the offensive themselves. Winger Edd Walker and fullback Sam Arkwright looked full of running. A penalty was conceded by the hosts and we chose to kick for the line out. The ball was won and taken wide where another penalty was conceded. This time Rory McNabb took a quick tap and got closer to the line. Acting scrum half Swainson then passed the ball to fly half Jonathan Davies who powered over near the posts. McNabb added the extras. 7-0.
Otley came straight back after a loose penalty kick to touch. They strung together a neat passage of play down the RH touch line, were nearly thwarted by a last ditch tackle effort from Max Metcalfe but the ball was off loaded inside to the supporting runner to score. Conversion added and it was all square. 7-7.
Wharfedale then took the ball back in hand rather than the erratic kicking game which they had executed badly and had played into the hands of the Otley back three. As a group we were having much more success with the running game. Arkwright, Walker and Dave Hickling in the back three all making good yards, as were many of the forwards, especially Swainson and Stockton, and centre Michael Beer was slipping past tackles like a well-oiled seal. It was Hickling who was next to add to the score sheet, playing out on the wing instead of his usual scrum half position, he showed pace and power down the far right hand touch line to finish off an excellent score. McNabb missed the tricky conversion but we were back in the lead at 12-7.
Otley bounced straight back, showed their attacking ability but also highlighted a lapse in concentration from the visitors. They exploited an overlap on the far left to score an unconverted try. The scores were tied again at 12-12.
As the half neared a close, Wharfedale looked to regain the lead and a strong bullocking run by second row Jim Bowers took the play deep into Otley territory. The ball was recycled and fed wide to Hickling who kicked the ball through and chased to apply pressure on the home sides scrambling defence. The ball bobbled into touch and Otley took a quick throw in but centre John Davidson was aware and on hand to scrag the player. The ball went loose and impressive young second row Hugh Turnbull pounced on the loose ball to score. The extras went wide but we regained the lead. 17-12.
The second half started well for the visitors and we were soon camped up in the Otley 22 looking to extend our slender lead. The scrum was performing well despite a few different faces, Cabbage and Andy Charlton doing cracking jobs at prop ably assisted by Mex Metcalfe in the hooking role. Otley were feeling the pressure and a couple of penalties were conceded at the scrum. The second reset was held so the ball was spun wide only to be thwarted by an attempted intercept by the home side’s centre, which the official deemed a deliberate knock on and duly showed him a yellow card.
A scrum was taken again from the penalty and was looking all on to powered over the Otley line, but their prop chose to kick the ball out of the back and was also shown yellow and the ref marched under the posts for a penalty try. 24-12.
Now playing against a depleted Otley side and filled with confidence, the visitors soon extended their lead. A loose kick through was well fielded by Arkwright, who found Harry Bullough hitting the line at pace and took the ball up towards the Otley 22. The ball was offloaded off the floor to the supporting David Wade who then passed inside to Metcalfe to run in for the try. McNabb with the extras, 31-12.
Otley were not giving up though and were still attacking themselves but a loose ball was quickly pounced on and followed up by slick handling from Bullough to put Turnbull into space for a clear run to the line. McNabb was on target again. 38-12.
Wharfedale then went to sleep a little and Otley were now back up to their full complement and came back with two quick tries to give them hope of a better result. The score was now 38-24 and only two converted scores the difference. A few stern words behind the posts after the second try and Wharfedale began to find their shape again. A series of short range carries and hard lines took the ball within striking distance then a McNabb show and go saw him grab the last try of the game. An excellent conversion by the scrum half took the final score to 45-24.
1. Andy Charlton
2. Max Metcalfe
3. Paul Marklew
4. Jim Bowers
5. Hugh Turnbull
6. Elliot Stockton
7. David Wade
8. Chris Swainson
9. Rory McNabb
10. Jonathan Davies
11. Edd Walker
12. Michael Beer
13. John Davidson
14. Dave Hickling
15. Sam Arkwright
16. Ben Hammonds
17. Tom Oakes
18. Harry Bullough
Tries: – Turnbull (2), Hickling, Davies, McNabb, Metcalfe, Penalty try.
Penalties: – 0.
Conversions: – McNabb (4)