Rugby Union: Harrogate 24 Otley 27

3rd Novenber 2012.'Harrogate v Birkenhead,  Rugby Union.'Pictured Harrogate's Sam bottomley in the thick of the action'Picture by Gerard Binks.
3rd Novenber 2012.'Harrogate v Birkenhead, Rugby Union.'Pictured Harrogate's Sam bottomley in the thick of the action'Picture by Gerard Binks.

Harrogate had to settle for a losing bonus point from Saturday’s 24-27 derby defeat at home to Otley.

In the first National Two North home game of the season, director of rugby Mike Aspinall was looking to steer his troops to their first win, after last weekend’s defeat at Stourbridge.

Neither side really shone in a rather lacklustre encounter.

Disappointingly in the first half, it was the referee who seemed to take centre stage, sending five players to the bin.

Otley set out their stall early on and the 14-point lead they carved out was always going to be hard to overturn.

They were in Harrogate territory right from the kick off, after breaks from scrum half Stephen Depledge and fly half Mark Ireland.

Pressure was relieved by a penalty but Otley retook the advantage when Ollie Denton’s casual outside pass was intercepted by winger Harry Hudson who charged across the whitewash for a try converted by Ireland.

A confident Otley then bagged their second, as Ireland hoisted a high kick, searching for centre Jack Mackie out on the far side.

But when Mackie was tackled, full back Arnold Ellison raced on to the loose ball to power across.

Ireland’s conversion hit the post but bounced over, as Otley toasted a 14-0 lead after just 11 minutes.

Harrogate had seen virtually none of the ball up to this point, and Otley extended their advantage further when Ireland tagged a penalty awarded for holding on.

Worse was to come for the hosts when prop Andy Boyde was sent to the bin for an infringment in a rolling maul, and Otley had the ball again.

But a great kick downfield handed Gate a lineout five yards from the line, and expertly won by lock Chris Wilson Harrogate pushed for the line.

Otley lock Simon Willett was then sent to the bin for an infringement in the maul, and with both sides down 14, Harrogate began to exert the first bit of pressure they’d had.

In a well-worked backs move, winger Sam Bottomley broke clear, cutting back inside to run on to a great pass and under the posts for a try.

Joe Rowntree’s conversion was a formality, but he missed a penalty kick shortly after from just inside the half way line and later on that three points would come to matter.

Harrogate continued to impose pressure on the visitors, camping on the Otley line for the next five minutes.

But attack was then quickly turned to defence after the hosts lost hooker Steve Maycock to the bin.

The flurry of yellows continued, Otley’s Dan Temm and then Gate flanker Nathan Smith both trudging to the touchline, so the half time whistle came as something of a relief, as there seemed to be more players off the field than on it.

Phil Wickham replaced Danny Matthews at scrum half for the restart as Harrogate attempted to change things up.

A glorious chance to reduce the deficit was missed when fly half Denton broke clear on the wing, and in acres of space had a great chance to steal across the whitewash only to be tackled into touch.

Ireland tagged another penalty to up Otley’s lead to 20-7, as the game started to take on a lethargic feel.

Callum Irvine and Aarin Yorke joined the fray, replacing Mayock and Rowntree.

Finally a breakthrough arrived when Bottomley again showed a superb turn of pace to cut through the Otley line once again and touch down.

A succesful Irvine conversion later, Harrogate were slowly clawing back control.

Centre Kyle Dench showed a lightening burst of speed to scythe through the middle, only to stumble and submit to the tackle 15 yards from the line.

Wilson then won a lineout, the ball collected by Wickham who passed out wide to Dench, and Harrogate were pushing again.

An infringement after a tackle on Boyde handed Irvine another penalty, successfully kicked to take Gate within three points.

But Otley, in the first time they’d been in Harrogate territory this half , were about to inflict a killer blow.

Their hard-working forwards made some superb hard yards, and a break by Temm allowed Depledge to pop over in the corner and pull the visitors clear once again.

Ireland’s conversion put the game out of range at 17-27 and Harrogate, if they were to get anything from the game, needed a converted try to secure a losing bonus point.

Fortunately, from a free kick, replacement prop Ben Reaveley managed to pop over to the left of the posts, converted by Irvine right on the whistle.

National Two North: Harrogate 24 Otley 27

Harrogate: Oli Denton, Sam Bottomley, Kyle Dench, Barry Frost, Noel Minikin, Joe Rowntree, Danny Matthews; Andy Boyde, Steve Maycock, Dan Metcalfe, Jake Brady, Chris Wilson, Nathan Smith, Rob Adair, Tim Heaton; Callum Irvine, Aarin Yorke; James Spencer, Ben Reaveley, Phil Wickham.

Otley: Arnie Ellison, James Wood, Jack Mackie, Ben Fairclough, Harry Hudson, Mark Ireland, Stephen Depledge, William Rigg, Ben Steele,Paul Hill, Matthew Stephens, Simon Willett, Tom O’Donnell, Jack Scott Paul, Dan Temm; George Burkinshaw, Henry Walker, Stephen Costello, Mark Cooke, Chris Dyson