Otley 15-8 Preston Grasshoppers
Hoppers fell to their first defeat of 2016 ending a run of seven matches unbeaten when they came unstuck at Cross Green against Otley.
Otley had a very simple game plan, with the heavy pitch and swirling wind aiding them, to kick to the corners and try and make it a set piece game. Hoppers held their own in the scrum and were solid on their own ball in the line-out but did struggle against the driving maul.
Hoppers were up against things from the start as they had to make a couple of changes to the side and then lost Alex Zavallis-Roebuck and Harry Moulding to injury during the first half. This led to Jack Walker being deployed on the wing with Scott Jordan moving to scrum half, both performed admirably but it certainly disrupted the rhythm.
While obviously disappointed with the result head coach Garth Dew said: “That was not our best performance as there was a lot of disruption but we’ll take a losing bonus point, ending up with a flanker on the wing and your winger at scrum half isn’t ideal but we will take positives from here.”
“The effort of the guys from start to finish was exceptional, and epitomised by Tom Forster and Will Lees (who made a superb try saving tackle). Our defence was again very good but we did concede too many penalties and while there were some interesting decisions given against us we have to look at ourselves as we had a few chances in the opening 20 minutes we didn’t take.”
“With three big home games coming up and a few guys with knocks it’ll be a big opportunity for guys to step up and make an impression. Jack Walker and Sam Gale did that today and they’ll be a few more waiting in the wings for their opportunity.”
Hoppers started the game well and looked much the brighter side with a couple of good breaks, first Scott Jordan and Sean Taylor combined down the right and then Zavallis-Roebuck weaved his way through the defence, only to pick up a injury and be forced off inside 10 minutes. All Hoppers could take from this good period was a Taylor penalty and they fell behind midway through the half when Declan Dunn touched down a catch and drive.
Otley extended their lead early in the second half when Michael Coady, a real threat all game, cut a nice line against a scrambling defence (the travelling support were aggrieved as there was a blatant forward pass missed in the build up).
Hoppers got back within a score after a good line-out drive got them in range and after a couple of good surges they saw the space on the short side and Walker powered his way over the line. Otley replacement Joshua Cruise slotted a penalty after a harsh yellow card for Mark Murray to stretch the lead to seven and despite Hoppers efforts they had to settle for the bonus point.
The photo at the top of the page is used with the kind permission of John Ashton. You can view more of his photographs here.