Out of the bottom 2 courtesy of Redruth's 10 point deduction and boosted by a victory at Halifax in their previous encounter, Nuneaton flew out of the blocks scoring their first try before Otley had touched the ball.
Nuns retained possession for several phases as they worked their way up field. Eventually centre Tim Douglas was on hand to take a reverse pass and score under the posts. Fly-half Rob Cook converted to give his side an early 7-0 lead.
Otley's early plight did not stop there as breaks from half-way by full-back Jody Peacock resulted in two tries for former Coventry winger Aaron Takarangi. Cook converted both tries with a solitary penalty from Rob Kitching being Otley's only points in the opening quarter.
When Otley did start to gain possession, it was clear that they would cause problems for the Nuns' defence. When consecutive catch-and-drive manoeuvres were brought down ielegally, the referee reduced Nuneaton to 14 men with the offending prop being sent to the sin bin.
Otley scored their first try after 25 minutes. Right winger Steve Parsons burst through the midfield before drawing the full-back with a well-timed pass to the supporting Kitching who had a clear run to the posts. Kitching added the extras and Otley had made their first inroad into the deficit but Nuneaton led 21-10.
Otley spent the remainder of the first half camped in the Nuneaton '22. On the stroke of half-time, Otley gathered a poor clearance kick and quickly spread the ball to the left hand touchline where Danny Smith jinked and linked with Kitching who dived in at the corner. This time the touch judge kept his flag down having earlier ruled out an effort by Smith. Kitching converted excellently from the touchline to make it 21-17 on the referee's half-time whistle.
The defensive pattern was much improved in the second half. Aggressive attacking tackling continually pushed Nuneaton onto the back foot and forced them into making errors. As in the first half, Otley threatened every time they ventured into the opposition territory. Second row Richard Snowball made a rampaging break down the blindside before finding flanker Nathan Bland in support. When Bland was tackled 30 metres out, the ball was recycled quickly into midfield and centre Paul Mooney evaded several defenders before outpacing the covering winger to score behind the posts. Kitching added the conversion and Otley were finally in front at 21-24.
Otley's kicking game was now asking questions of the Nuneaton back three. When a penalty attempt by Cook hit the crossbar Otley cleared their lines and a good kick and chase placed Nuns' Peacock under pressure at the back. His poor clearance kick was charged down by Dan Hyde, who excelled all afternoon, and Otley skipper Ian Shuttleworth was quickest to re-act to the loose ball which he re-gathered before racing in from 30 metres out for the 'bonus point' try. Kitching once again stroked over the simple conversion attempt to make it 21-31 to Otley with 15 minutes left to play.
Nuns were determined not to let their performance go unrewarded and chased after a losing bonus point at the very least. Cook failed with a drop-goal attempt and another penalty kick at goal before kicking for the corner to allow his forwards opportunity to catch and drive for the line. Otley's pack were in no mood to surrender the lead they had worked so hard to build up and smashed their counterparts advances from the line-out.
Otley had the final say in the match when back-rower Matt Stockdale crashed onto a well-timed pass from second-row Paul "Wally Lewis" Williams. Stockdale split the midfield defence and ran to the line from 20 metres out. Kitching kicked the conversion to give him a personal tally of 23 points for the match.
It has to be said that this was one of the strangest matches that I have seen but when Otley's resolve was questioned they answered it in emphatic fashion. Otley now look ahead to next weekend's challenge when Stourbridge make the trip North to Cross Green.
Nuneaton: Peacock; Takarangi, Brocklehurst, Douglas, Cave; Cook, A Wright; Fowles, Bray, Hartland; Solomon, Griffiths; Holmes, Critchley, Southwell (capt); Reps: S. Wright, G. Thomas, Marston, Bartrum.
Otley: Kitching; Parsons, Dench, Mooney, Smith (Burrell 65); Shuttleworth (capt), Easterby; Trethewey, Sayers (Steele 10), Wederall (Turner 50); Snowball, Williams; Stockdale, Bland, Hyde; Reps: Hawkins (unused)
Referee: D Gamage (RFU)
Tries: Takarangi (2), Douglas
Cons: Cook (3)
Tries: Kitching (2), Mooney, Shuttleworth, Stockdale
Cons: Kitching (5)
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