Hoppers fell to another heart-breaking defeat in the final minutes as Otley left Lightfoot Green with a bonus point win.
Stephen Depladge completed his hat-trick as time expired and kicked the extras, the only one of the four tries he successfully converted, to condemn Hoppers to a fourth successive defeat.
Once again Hoppers dominated for long periods and played more rugby than their visitors but Otley were able to score four tries, three coming as a result of set pieces 5m from Hoppers line, to snatch victory and have Hoppers looking over their shoulders perilously close to the bottom three.
Speaking after the game Head coach Garth Dew said; “words can’t describe how we are feeling right now, that’s three times we’ve lost with the last kick of the game even though once again we have played all the rugby and were much the better side.”
“Our scrum was under pressure today and that’s something that hasn’t happened a lot this season and we allowed that try under the posts at the end. However, we didn’t execute well in the build-up as we gave the ball away with three minutes to play when we were on their 22 and that’s all stuff that comes from the top two inches.”
“We carved them up at times especially in the second half but it’s another game that we’ve conceded early on, we’ve conceded of set plays, this time scrums but there were positives and I’m hoping that this will galvanise the lads as there is a great spirit amongst the lads.”
The positives that Dew spoke of came in the form of a couple of superbly taken tries that combined forwards and backs and some highly spirited defence in the loose that hardly allowed the visiting Otley team to break across the gain line.
Hoppers first try came after a superb break from Alex Zavallis-Roebuck who built on his cameo appearance at Caldy to marshal the back line well and worked tirelessly in defence and at the breakdown. His vision and turn of pace got him close to the line before quick ball retention and good hands put Billy Woof over in the corner.
Not to be outdone Hoppers scored a try of equal class in the second half as Woof and Sam Russell combined to put Ali Murray into space and the big second row powered his way into the 22 before a subtle offload put Lewis Allen away, who converted the try on his way to 19 points on the day.
Unfortunately Hoppers were undone by the Otley set piece, first Ben Steele was at the base of a 5m line out and two tap downs from the base of 5m scrums from Depledge, as well as a predatory strike from the 22 when he saw space at the side of the ruck, gave the visitors the victory.
Looking forward to the New Year Dew said; “We have a couple of huge games coming up against Broadstreet and Stockport and a couple of wins will see us rise up the league. I know there are some lads in the 2nd XV that are pushing hard which is nice, but we’ve built some stability and balance here. The team needs a rest so hopefully we will go away and enjoy our Christmas and come back strong, refreshed and with some fresh eyes.”
Hoppers travel to Broadstreet on January 3rd before entertaining Stockport on January 10th. There is also the annual Boxing Day fixture at Lightfoot Green between Malcolm Alden’s XV and Hoppers XV.
The photographs below are used with the kind permission of Mike Craig