This was never going to be an easy assignment for Otley against a Yorkshire rival who's coach had already admitted failure in their bid to survive in National Two with 10 matches to go.
After scoring their third try in the 26th minute of this game, all converted by winger Robin Kitching, Otley had victory well in hand and a rout looked likely. Amazingly though, Otley's only further points came from a rare penalty under the posts which was converted by Kitching towards the end of the first half.
After an early period of determined defence, Otley broke the deadlock after 15 minutes when centre Jonathan Buchanan hit a great line before brushing off 3 would-be tacklers to race in at the corner. Kitching thumped over an excellent conversion into the stiff wind to make it Halifax 0 Otley 7.
Soon after, Steve Parsons was eventually put into space and he burst through the Halifax rearguard on an arching run towards the uprights. Parsons handed onto Ian Shuttleworth in support who was brought down just short. The ball was recycled quickly and centre Paul Mooney was on hand to scamper in at the corner. Kitching stroked over another superb touchline conversion to make it 0-14 to Otley.
With Halifax still penned back, Otley's third try came from an unforced error. Halifax full-back Joe Knowles' attempted chip kick from inside his own half was charged down and back-rower Paul Williams was on hand to grab the richoted ball and race away towards the tryline. Unfortunately, Williams tweaked a hamstring in the act of scoring and had to be replaced by the returning Nathan Bland. Kitching maintained his 100% strike rate by once again converting. Halifax 0 Otley 21 after 25 minutes.
Flanker Xavier Andre then made a powerful pacy break up the middle after the re-start with only a last-ditch tackle bringing him down just five metres short. Kitching landed the simple penalty chance to extend Otley's lead to 24 points but from this point forward, the game lost any form of continuity.
The home side were given a leg back up into the match just before half-time. Halifax kicked a penalty into the corner but it looked very much like the ball had drifted dead-in-goal by the wind. Not a chance in the touch judge's opinion as the line-out was given 5 yards from the Otley line. Good work from the Halifax forwards resulted in prop George Jenkins grounding with Knowles converting. The referee blew for half-time straight after and it was Halifax 7 Otley 24 at half-time.
Knowles kicked a penalty just after half-time which appeared to awaken Otley's attacking intent as they spent the next 15 minutes hammering at the home line. It is a mystery how Otley didn't cross the line although unpunished offside in the mauls, around the edges of rucks and further out wide in the backs did not help Otley's cause at all.
Unfortunately, Otley weren't being marshalled with the same degree of sympathy that is too readily afforded to the underdog and Halifax were able to clear their lines from a penalty or following a frequent forward pass decision against Otley who were now playing into a stiff wind.
The second half was devoid of any flowing rugby to entertain the decent sized crowd as Halifax enjoyed the lion's share of possession but were unable to break down the best defence in the League - signalled by how Knowles opted to kick a penalty after a concerted period of pressure.
Otley had one last chance to score the fourth try after a loose Halifax pass enabled the visitors to clear downfield. It was a great surprise (or perhaps not) when Kitching was put clear on 80 minutes only to be harshly pulled back for a forward pass with no added time being played.
Special mention must go to No.8 Max Lewis (brought in on loan from Leeds Carnegie) who enjoyed a fine game on his first start for the club.
Whilst disappointed not to collect the bonus point, Otley remain at the top of National Division Two with both the best attacking and defensive record in the League.
Otley now look forward to a well-earned rest next weekend before the trip to Southend on Saturday 9th February.
Halifax: Knowles (Endersby 60); Brear, Marns, McGee, Mitchell, Gordon, Dillon, Blades, Kay (Townsend 44), Jenkins (Sanderson 66), White, Harrison, Moon (Smith 15) Brown (Townsend 56)
Otley: Shuttleworth (capt); Parsons, Buchanan, Mooney, Kitching; Monks, McCormack; Trethewey (Wederall 65), Steele (Sayers 75), Fullman; Snowball, Parr; Williams (Bland 25), Andre, Lewis
Referee: R Draper (RFU)
Pens: Knowles (2)
Tries: Buchanan, Mooney, Williams
Cons: Kitching (3)
Click here for photos of the match courtesy of Paul Barrett
Click here for individual league records