OLD Otliensians served up a much improved display in their 24-14 home defeat to Wetherby.

With lock Ali Campbell, skipper Sam Featherstone and No.8 Lee O’Donnell returning from injury, hopes were high that there could be a turn-round in fortune for ‘Ensians.

In the end it was not to be, but there were encouraging signs as the hosts battled to the end.

Things started well as the home side put together a string of nine phases, making progress into opposition territory before a handling error brought this to an end.

There was a setback when winger Connor Bateman suffered a leg injury to be replaced by newcomer Joe Warner who immediately made an impact from full back.

The visitors lost possession in a counter-attack, the hosts recycled the ball and Warner used his pace to slice through from 30 metres and touch down under the posts.

Will Cooper added the conversion to give the home side a 7-0 lead on 13 minutes.

In the set pieces ‘Ensians competed well in the lineout through a good supply of ball from Featherstone and Campbell.

The scrums were a different matter and there were signs that the scrummaging of the visiting pack would be a dominant factor.

For the hosts, Cooper missed a long-range penalty, and on 30 minutes Wetherby surprisingly missed one under the posts too.

O’Donnell had to leave the field for treatment on a shoulder injury as the visitors began to use their rolling maul to gain ground before releasing their backs.

The hosts continued to spread the ball wide at every opportunity, but handling errors resulted in missed opportunities.

As half-time approached the visitors showed the effectiveness of their well-organised pack, scoring from a pushover. The conversion failed, leaving the home side with a 7-5 lead.

This looked to be the likely score at the break, but on 38 minutes the visitors fielded the ball in their own half and made good progress up the right. There appeared little danger until two cover tackles were missed and the winger went over. The conversion gave the away side a 12-7 advantage at the break.

Into the second half, the hosts began to struggle as the visitors used their driving maul to gain ground before releasing their strong back division.

They also never missed a beat in the lineouts and this abundance of possession put serious pressure on the hosts.

Whilst camped in the home 22, Wetherby recycled well to cross wide out. The conversion failed but their lead increased to 17-7 on 55 minutes.

The hosts were still very much in the game with centres Adam Williamson and Ollie Eaves working well together and, when winger Luke Cowdell got the ball with little space, he powered through two defenders to run in under the posts from 40 metres.

Cooper’s conversion narrowed the gap to 17-14 and the home side were back in the game.

Again the hosts began to struggle as the visitors employed their driving maul at every opportunity. They battered the home line for several minutes before the referee lost patience and awarded a penalty try for illegal disruption of a scrum.

The home side managed to put some good phases of rugby together. With O’Donnell to the fore and good support from replacement Jay Walsh, the hosts mounted several promising attacks in Wetherby territory, but handling errors and infringements meant chances were missed, leaving the final score at 24-14 to the visitors.