CONDITIONS were ideal for open, running rugby at Marsh Lane, as a depleted Old Otliensians bravely ran hosts Knottingley close, eventually going down 26-20 in their Yorkshire Three clash.

A slight breeze freshened soon after the start and the visitors, playing into it, were on the back foot. But, following a penalty miss by the hosts, scrum problems gave ‘Ensians a chance to seize on bad ball.

Wingers Connor Bateman and Connor Paley combined and John Offer had a strong run which led to a penalty award, duly converted by Will Cooper. That made it 3-0 after 15 minutes from their first visit to opposition territory.

The wind was a factor and both sides were making mistakes. ‘Ensians kicked directly into touch and Knottingley lost their own lineout. Luke Cowdell then ran strongly, kicked ahead and Sam Featherstone forced the home defence into touch.

Knottingley were quickly back in the visitors’ half and a penalty kick to the corner resulted in a forwards try. The improvement was successful and 7-3 on 20 minutes was about right.

Knottingley chose to kick for position from the kick off, but missed touch and Cooper ran it back.

‘Ensians were pushed at a scrum, but did better second time round and from a charge by substitute second row James Smith, the ball reached Joe Ridgway, who went over out wide.

A superb conversion by Will Cooper put the men in blue ahead again at 10-7. The lead was short-lived however and sustained Knottingley pressure led to a converted try and a scoreline of 14-10 on 35 minutes.

Play fluctuated, with Knottingley infringements keeping ‘Ensians in the game despite a lack of territory.

Cooper was just short with a shot at goal from halfway before the break. After the restart, Knottingley lost some of their own lineouts and gave the visitors hope, but the wind was causing problems for accurate passing.

A loose ball gave the hosts a clean break which led to an unconverted try. At 19-10, 'Ensians now required at least two scores and they were not controlling the game. Penalty kicks were not finding touch and play was constantly pushed back into the visitors’ half of the field.

Desperate defence after a breakaway could not prevent Knottingley increasing their lead by another seven points. A scoreline of 26-10 was looking ominous, but ‘Ensians came back and after good running and a kick chase, an unconverted try by Paley narrowed the gap.

A further try wide out by Bateman put them within reach, but time was too short and and a scoreline of 26-20 to the home side ended up being slightly disappointing.

It was a tough ask for 'Ensians though. Two players returning from injury was somewhat offset by the unavailability of nine members of the previous week’s squad, with only a 17-strong group available.

The visitors had just two substitutes, Rob Arbuckle and Smith, with the latter coming on after only ten minutes. The close scoreline therefore spoke encouragingly for the first team's potential and the second team's strength going forward.