Hoppers fell to their first defeat since mid September after coming unstuck against a determined Otley side. With a thick fog hanging around for the entirety of the game and plenty of rain in recent days conditions weren’t ideal but both teams looked to play an open expansive game and ran in three tries apiece.
“We didn’t deserve to win at all, we were second best today” said head coach Michael Lough “ We had a poor start and played into their strengths, we lacked intelligence and with the ball either kicked away possession or looked to go wide to quickly where our execution let us down.”
There were glimpses of the style of rugby that has taken Hoppers to third in the table and Lough singled out Phil Baines for his ‘excellent’ performance and they were also unlucky with a couple of second half injuries with both Alan Holmes and Josh Purnell being forced off just minutes after being introduced.
Lough continued; “Otley played well and just wanted it more. We needed to be more thoughtful, the team has the heart just not the head”
It was this lack of execution that let try scoring opportunities go begging as Hoppers spurned a number of guilt edge chances to score, especially in a first half. They also turned down what appeared to be makeable kicks at goal although Lough didn’t feel this contributed to the loss as the team was ‘consistent’ in its decision making.
The hosts had a ten point lead in the opening ten minutes as Hoppers poor start allowed them to pick up some momentum, fly half Ben Cooper slotted an early penalty and converted a Jonathon Matthews try.
Hoppers got into gear midway through the half and started to control the tempo and were rewarded with plenty of possession and as usual looked dangerous in attack, especially from quick ball or on the counter. There were two clear cut chances in the right corner that should have been turned into points but they were finally on the score board just before the break after a counter attack got them deep into Otley territory before Dominic Moon powered his way over.
A converted penalty Hoppers pulled the score back to 10-8 but they were caught off guard by a restart that didn’t travel 10m. Otley maintained possession, won a 5m scrum before wing James Wood crashed over.
Hoppers levelled up the score at 15-15 with a Will Keenan try following a trade mark break from Karl Fitzpatrick and a subtle offload from Ali Murray but Wood scored moments later after Hoppers lost their own scrum on half way and the winger found space down the left.
Again Hoppers looked to have got themselves back into the game with Moon’s second try as the forwards powered their way to the Otley line with the captain controlling well from the base of the maul, but the conversion was missed and Otley clung on for the win.
The photos below are used with the kind permission of Mike Craig.