Harrogate beaten by Otley in derby clash
Harrogate RUFC went down 26-15 in their National Two North derby clash at Otley.
The game was a full-blooded affair between the local rivals with the home side deserving winners.
Harrogate were however handicapped by having to make a last-minute change when fly-half and commander-in-chief Dave Doherty was urgently summonsed to be with his wife as she delivered a baby daughter.
Replacement, Luke Riddell made a sound starting debut though, naturally, the change was disruptive.
Nevertheless, the Cockerels started like a house on fire with a charge down putting pressure on the home line.
Otley were forced to concede a number of penalties and Danny Matthews’ kick put the visitors ahead.
The pressure continued and a high tackle by a home player led to a quickly-taken Harrogate penalty.
A well-timed Riddell pass opened up the hosts’ defence and Oli Rosillo came into the line at pace to score a converted try and put Harrogate 10-0 ahead after 10 minutes.
Otley then counter-attacked from deep and an offside offence from the visitors led to an attacking line-out from which hooker Luke Chadwick burrowed over for a try converted by Tom Hodson.
This was soon followed by another Otley penalty and the scores were levelled at 10-10 before the Cockerels’ Sam Brady was yellow-carded for what was adjudged to be an illegal tackle.
After 24 minutes, an Otley knock-on led to the game’s first scrum which the seven-man Harrogate pack comfortably won. A touchline dust up followed and Otley flanker Simon Willet was despatched to the sinn-bin.
The visitors’ superior scrummaging won them another penalty but they made an absolute mess of the ensuing attacking line-out and the hosts were awarded a penalty which Hodson duly kicked to put them ahead.
Referee Mr Davis’ very individual interpretation of the tackle laws then led to Jake Brady joining his brother Sam in the bin.
Another period of vigorous play followed and both captains were called together for a general warning.
A promising Harrogate backs attack ended with an obviously forward pass and, soon afterwards, they went offside to give Hodson another penalty which he kicked successfully to make the score 16-10 at the interval.
From the re-start, a sharp break from Otley scrum-half Max Johnson launched a series of home attacks which were successfully defended.
Harrogate continued to drive their hosts backwards at the scrums but, inexplicably, were repeatedly penalised for this and another Hodson kick made it 19-10.
Otley winger Paul Petchey then made a superb run down the left for an excellent individual try which was converted and Harrogate seemed to be under the cosh at 26-10 behind.
The visitors rallied, however, and put together streams of attacking rugby for the rest of the match, inspired by a series of sharp breaks from replacement scrum-half Phil Wickham.
A well-constructed move saw substitute Will Morecombe come into the line and deliver a scoring pass to Jonny Giles who applied the finishing touch for 26-15.
The touchline conversion attempt was narrowly off target, and although Harrogate continued to attack throughout the closing stages, Otley’s defence held out for victory.