Otley 17 Preston Grasshoppers 20
Hoppers got back to winning ways with a 20-17 victory over Otley. In difficult conditions it was always going to be a forward battle and a new front row for Hoppers laid a solid platform which should give them some confidence with some tricky fixtures to come before the holiday break.
Speaking after the game Head Coach Dave Baldwin said; “the main thing is we got a win away from home but there are still things that we can improve on. I am delighted with the work of the forwards as we were able to control possession especially late in the second half. There are a few things we need to sort out as we gave away too many penalties and some sloppy play lets us down but we left with a win which was important.”
Baldwin singled out the performances of the two props Chris Gale and Rich Morton who both had excellent games and gave Hoppers a good base from which to launch attacks and clear their own line when required.
Once again Dominic Moon stood out and his work with and without the ball was at his typical high standard with the talismanic Number 8 rewarded with two tries both coming from a much improved set piece and Matt Hughes late winner also came from a solid set piece.
It wasn’t the best start by Hoppers as they found themselves a try down in the opening minutes, Otley used the conditions well to gain a territorial advantage and a good line out move from left to right had full back Chris Georgiou providing the extra man in the line to cross, he also added the conversion in a mixed day for the full back with the boot as not only did he miss a simple penalty in the second half but a lot of his kicks from hand brought groans from the home crowd as Otley were unable to capitalise on penalties by gaining much territory.
Hoppers were able to get themselves back into the game and chose to kick a penalty to the corner instead of taking a shot at goal in the blustery conditions and it turned out to be a smart decision as even though the initial catch and drive was stopped short Moon was able to smash his way over from close range, Holroyd added the extras to level the scores.
Sean Long would put Hoppers ahead mid way through the half after Holroyd, who was replaced at half time with a rib injury that could keep him out for a few weeks, was unable to take the penalty kick. Long converted well following a good break by forwards and backs deep into Otley territory, but the hosts would end the half on top after Rich Morton was surprisingly sin binned for a scrummaging offence and Otley capitalised on a gap in the defensive line with Tom Rock coasting in by the posts.
Hoppers dominated possession and territory in the second half and used the conditions to their advantage with Long and replacement Karl Fitzpatrick using the boot to good effect with Fitzpatrick also making a few good breaks around the fringes, but couldn’t pull away from Otley and the second half was still a close affair without the host looking particularly threatening.
Hoppers took the lead with Moon’s second try from close range after a great turn over by Morton just inside the Otley half and Long’s penetrating kick set up and good Hoppers chase set up a line out which was well controlled before Moon was able to touch down.
Georgiou restored the hosts lead with a penalty Hoppers had the final say with Hughes’ well worked try in the right corner following a 5m scrum, Hoppers tried to go once more for the power play but Otley’s defence stood strong but was sucked in and Hoppers spread the ball well with Long and Sean Taylor linking well to put Hughes over and after a short delay the referee finally awarded the try. Hoppers were able to grind out the final five minutes of the half in Otley territory as even with the ball the hosts struggled to break through the determined Hoppers ranks.
Things won’t get any easier for Hoppers over the coming weeks with the visit of Huddersfield who are quietly moving up the table and currently lie in third place and then a trip to second place Caldy before welcoming local rivals Kendal to Lightfoot Green before the Christmas break.