National League Two North: Otley 20 Wharfedale 13

OTLEY, in their lucky blue shirts, made it three wins out of four yesterday to climb another place in National League Two North.

However, although the Cross Greeners are still only four points above the drop zone, their position is infinitely better than beaten visitors Wharfedale, for whom a second relegation in three seasons is looking increasing likely.

The derby, watched by 1,106 spectators, had more errors than they had a right to expect, but Otley won’t be worried by that after their 20-13 triumph.

“It was as if it was a freezing cold day on a horrible pitch,” said Otley’s director of rugby Peter Clegg, “but we’re happy with a win – you always are.

“It was fully deserved too, and we are getting players back, such as Mike Coady, who enjoyed himself and put in a big hit (on Tom Davidson), and we are expecting Jack Mackie to return soon, but we know that we aren’t safe from relegation.”

Wharfedale’s Tom Davidson was puzzled about their display and indeed their season.

He said: “I have played in worse teams in National League One.

“We played really well in our previous two performances against South Leicester and Hinckley, and trained well on Tuesday and Thursday and had a good pre-match warm-up.

“But we made too many basic errors, and when Otley didn’t let us do what we wanted to, it was like we were rabbits caught in the headlights.

“I have no idea whether having last week off had any effect on us, and there was a lack of energy in the first half, but we played with more structure in the second and when we get it right we are awesome.”

The most worrying sight of the afternoon was Otley winger Nazir Karim out cold on the turf in the 46th minute.

He was later being helped off when his legs seemed to collapse under him, although he looked a lot happier after the match when undergoing a head injury assessment in the physio’s room with an ambulance crew in tow.

Otley were the first to show in attack in the third minute, with full back Tom Hodson twice appearing in a move, initially on the right and then on the left, putting a grubber through which forced a five-metre scrum, and fly half Joe Rowntree went on the narrow side from that to score in the fifth minute., despite the best efforts of right winger Robbie Davidson.

Wharfedale fly half Tom Barrett stroked over penalties in the 14th and 32nd minutes, but Rowntree replied in the 19th minute before his tap and go led to right winger Henry Roberts going over in the 37th minute, Rowntree’s conversion making the interval score 15-6.

After a first half where errors stymied their flow, Wharfedale were better in the second half, but they conceded a try to replacement lock Sam Cook in the 55th minute which sealed a double as Otley had won 17-14 at The Avenue in September.

The Greens replied with an Adam Howard try that Barrett converted eight minutes later to gain a losing bonus point.

Yellow cards went to Wharfedale’s Rob Baldwin, in the 51st minute, and Otley’s Henry Watson, seven minutes later, for technical offences.

Victory for Sheffield (25-21 in their home derby over Sheffield Tigers) and two points in a losing cause for Luctionians (39-36 at home to Stourbridge) was further bad news for the Greens.

They are now 11 points from safety, although Macclesfield, who beat visitors Chester 24-14, have a game in hand in what was almost a perfect storm of a weekend for Wharfedale.