OTLEY seem to be heading towards the new National League Two North season with a spring in their step.

They played their first pre-season friendly against neighbours Yorkshire Carnegie at Cross Green last Saturday, going down 27-7.

However, Otley's new director of rugby Charlie Maunder said: "I think that we got more out of it than them, and we had 31 players getting on the pitch in pre-season, which is unheard of.

"Last season we only had 13 or 14 players on the Friday night and were scrambling to get a team out.

"Team spirit is good and this time we have strength in depth, which means that we can rotate, which is vital when you are asking players to fulfil 33 matches.

"Ben Magee and Adam Malthouse were outstanding against Carnegie, and we hope to have 23 or 24 players in the squad for today's home match against Billingham."

Meanwhile, Bradford & Bingley are without a game today, having expected to be hosting Kirkby Lonsdale.

"They have fixed up a game against Fylde instead," said a frustrated Bees rugby committee chairman Chris Hemsley.

Meanwhile, Rob Baldwin was pleased with Wharfedale’s first pre-season friendly.

The Greens triumphed 24-18 last Saturday at Kirkby Lonsdale, who play a division below the Greens in North

Premier, and the Dalesmen’s director of rugby admitted: “I learnt a lot.

“We took about 30 players and all of them got a run-out, but we tried to give those who will be facing Blaydon today and Rotherham Titans a week today, also at home, at least 20 minutes, while giving others more game-time.

“We were a bit understrength in the backs due to last-minute hitches and injury, but we were stronger in the forwards.”

Missing for example, were back-rowers Matt Houghton, Josh Burridge and new signing Ben Leacock, who plays in the second row, while scrum half Phil Woodhead was absent with an injury suffered playing for Leicester Tigers in the Premiership Sevens, and centre Joel Gill was another absentee.

However, Baldwin said: “Josh should be available today”, but a bigger conundrum could be what to do at fly half.

Max and Will Bell shared that duty at the weekend, but Tom Barrett could be unavailable for periods of the season due to work commitments, and is currently not available.

One shining light from the visit to Cumbria was 17-year-old Ryan Hodgson, son of club legend Andy.

Baldwin, whose wife Victoria gave birth to their third child Jude last month (joining Hugo, two, and Ella, four) said of the teenager, who is not a colt until the forthcoming season: "We played him at 12 on Saturday, but we see him as more of a 13.

"He didn't look out of place and we are looking forward to seeing more of him.

"Joel is not available at the moment as he is busy farming, and Tom and Joel are two top men to be missing at the moment."

Meanwhile, the club's former rugby chairman Michael Harrison has finally been discharged from Pinderfields in Wakefield.

'Clarty', who spent three months in hospital after a farming accident, will continue his rehabilitation at home, but has been buoyed by many messages of goodwill – both from those at The Avenue and from further afield.

Wharfedale (home to Blaydon): T Asejevs, G Martin, D Stockdale, T Jackson, R Ward, S Booker, B Leacock, S Borrill, R Rhodes, G Hedgley, M Houghton, J Tyson, C Walker, J Burridge; W Lawn, H Macnab, W Bell, R Macnab, R Hamilton, R Hodgson, R Wellock, J Prell, K Sharples, T Mann.