Otliensians are champions despite suffering second defeat of season at Halifax

Halifax 24 Old Otliensians 16

Otliensians suffered only their second defeat of the season on the day when they were confirmed as Yorkshire Division Four champions.

They learned of their title-winning success minutes after the final whistle when the surprise new came through that second-placed Stocksbridge had been held to 22-22 draw at home by Wetherby.

That sparked a champagne celebration as chairman Steve Robinson toasted coach John Walker and the players.

It helped dull the pain of an afternoon that saw Otliensians lose three players to injury.

Leading try scorer Declan Jackson went off with a neck problem after just four minutes while later in the game stand-off Luke Freer (knee) and winger Josh Howarth, broken collarbone, were also forced to make early exits.

Despite having to reshuffle their side, the visitors clawed their way back to 17--16 with 12 minutes to go, only to see the home side seal the victory with a try under the posts in the closing minutes.

Despite fielding a changed side after picking up injuries in the 42-5 Aire-Wharfe Cup win at Keighley, Otliensians took an early lead.

Jackson put full back Kristian Keinhorst in at the corner for a try before having to be replaced by newcomer Andreas Xiarchos.

Otliensians struggled in the scrums against a heavier pack which meant that scrum half Rob Lofthouse had a lot of untidy ball to deal with.

Halifax used the boot to take play into the 22 where they produced a powerful drive to make it 5-5.

The visitors responded with some good interplay between forwards and backs before Keinhorst landed a well-struck penalty to edge his side ahead.

Freer had limped off when Otliensians had a player sin-binned to reduce them to 14 men. Halifax took advantage of their superior numbers to go over for their second try to lead 10-8 lead at the break. Howarth was replaced by Callum Doherty early in the second half while centre Tobias Gill was operating in Greer’s stand-off role.

A well-worked try and successful conversion stretched Halifax’s lead to 17- 8, but the visitors were far from finished.

They took play into the Halifax half with some strong drives by locks Ali Campbell and Steve Wade and No.8 Rob Arbuckle.

When the home side transgressed, Keinhorst converted a penalty to narrow the gap to 17-11.

With Freer bravely returning to the action, Otliensians produced their best backs play of the match.

A slick pass put centre Luke Cowdell away down the left flank and he beat three defenders to score.

The visitors were pushed onto the back foot in the closing stages but good defence from flankers Sam Featherstone and Alex Albrecht kept Halifax at bay for long periods.

However, Otliensians could not clear their lines and eventually the pressure told when the home stand-off cut through to score under the posts with four minutes to go. A late flurry from Otliensians went unrewarded as Halifax hung on to win.

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