Otley 20 Redruth 18

By Oscar the Otter - March 31 2008
Otley 20 Redruth 18 Otley bounced back with a nail-biting victory against another determined outfit who produced their best performance of the season. Points machine Robin Kitching registered another 15 point haul including a penalty in the 9th minute of injury time which sent the Cornishmen crashing to an agonising defeat.

Otley made a number of changes to the starting line-up. With skipper Ian Shuttleworth missing his first match of the season and winger Steve Parsons also out injured, Danny Smith came in on the left wing with Alistair Monks starting at fly-half. Rob Kitching switched to full-back with Kyle Dench swapping places on the wing. Steve Trethewey started at loose head prop and their were wholesale changes at the rear end of the boiler. Paul Williams moved up to the engine room with Howard Parr moving back to the back blow. Dan Hyde started in his favoured opendside position with Leeds Carnegie loanee Max Lewis locking the scrum at No.8.

A strong northerly wind blowing into the corner opposite from the clubhouse combined with driving rain saw Otley playing against the elements in the first half.

Otley were forced to defend for much of the first 20 minutes but were still able to defy the conditions with a couple of sweeping counter-attacks that saw wingers Danny Smith and Kyle Dench make strong plunges into the visitors' 22. Guy Easterby was pulling the strings at the base of the scrum and half-back partner Alistair Monks made some effective clearance kicks out of the quagmire.

Redruth registered the first points of the match when fly-half Gareth Griffiths converted a penalty chance from 30 metres out. Otley then suffered a blow when Paul Williams had to leave the field with an injury after just 20 minutes although the effervescent Xavier Andre was released into the fray and immediately made his mark with a superb solo score. Andre took the ball at pace 30 metres out before showing impressive pace and balance to elude the initial line of defence before rounding the Redruth full-back to score. Robin Kitching added the conversion from next to the uprights and Otley led 7-3 after 25 minutes.

Redruth used the wind at their backs to pin Otley back in their own half for the remainder of the half but Otley's defence looked strong until a momentary lapse in concentration allowed Redruth's Paul Thirlby to make the initial break before offloading to supporting No.7 Steve Wood who slid in from 5 metres out. Griffiths converted and the Cornishmen led 7-10 after 35 minutes - a lead which they retained until half-time.

Otley drew level in the first minute of the second half when Kitching converted his second penalty but the second half was not the one sided affair that most onlookers were predicting.

The remainder of the game continued to be an absolute war of attrition with Redruth continuing to tackle like demons around the ruck while Otley's experienced battle-hardened trojans such as Howard Parr and Dan Hyde carried it up tirelessly while pig farming second row Richard Snowball again showed massive strength in the close exchanges and athleticism in the line-out. Steve Trethewey and Kris Fullman continued to hold the upperhand in the scrum.

Otley's backs were also called into action to make some try-saving tackles. First of all, centre Rob Whatmuff rolled back the years to haul down Redruth's Rob Thirlby and then Kitching pulled off an immense tackle on Reds' centre Petaia Gidlow who seemed certain to score but the South African 'tatey merchant somehow managed to hold the Samoan up over the line.

Another Griffiths penalty after 62 minutes nudged Redruth back into the lead at 10-13 and then Otley were reduced to 14 men when hooker Ben Steele was sent to the sin-bin.

As has been the case at many other points in the season, this seemed to galvanise Otley and the forwards began to wade into their counterparts once camped in the Redruth '22. Trethewey made a strong run and then Monks split the Redruth defence with a neat dummy and break from 30 metres out which saw him hauled down just short. Possession was retained and with the Redruth defence at full stretch, Easterby and Hyde combined to send Kitching searing over the line. Kitching added the extras and Otley led 17-13 after 70 minutes.

Cheered on by the faithful band of travelling supporters, Redruth refused to give in and once again snatched the lead back when Rob Thirlby collected an overlap and dived in at the corner - although the reaction of the adjacent Otley supporters seemed to suggest more than a hint of a knock on and a forward pass in the build-up. Griffiths couldn't add the conversion but Redruth led 17-18 and were on the brink of a shock victory especially with Dench having been sent to the sin-bin for an offence in trying to save the try and the referee re-started the match with a penalty to Redruth.

With tension in the ground escalating by the second, Otley knew that they had to dig deep to come up with something special to rescue the vital league points. Kitching pushed a 35 metre penalty attempt just wide and then broke clear on half-way line and outpaced Redruth's left winger. With conditions unsuited to silky footwork, Kitching ploughed into Redruth's last man but the impact slowed his run sufficiently to allow other scrambling Reds' defenders time to pull him down. Wood then seemed to come in from the side and knock the ball forward but it was Otley who were adjudged to have fumbled and Redruth were awarded a scrum.

With seconds remaining Redruth were in possession near halfway in centre field. Otley have often been referred to as being a 'streetwise' outfit and that could certainly be said of what happened next as Otley's ubiquitous Hyde wrestled the ball from a Redruth carrier and panic from the visitors saw another penalty being awarded for hands in the ruck. The way in which Redruth's head coach unleashed hell on his charges for being mugged in this way demonstrated the emotion that was bubbling inside but such passion was great to see and hopefully they enjoyed a few beers on the coach back to Cornwall once they'd had chance to calm down.

From a slightly better angle but fully 35 metres out in slippy conditions, Kitching's strike was as clean as a whistle and the ball sailed between the uprights as the Otley crowd roared in relief.

There was just enough time for the match to be re-started but Parr collected the kick and Easterby kicked the ball into the stand to signal the full-time whistle.

Full credit must go to Redruth for the effort they put in and the quality of their performance but Otley had ultimately earned the victory using all their experience and desire to grind out the win when many sides would have folded...an epic encounter that entertained a large crowd despite the misearble conditions.

Otley now sit 1 point clear at the top of the table in front of Manchester with Stourbridge a further 5 points behind in 3rd. Otley now look forward to the clash at Cambridge on Saturday 12 April knowing that a victory would enable them to secure promotion back at Cross Green in the following match against Blackheath.

Otley: Kitching, Dench, Buchanan, Whatmuff, Smith; Monks, Easterby; Trethewey (Turner 77), Steele (Sayers 72), Fullman; Snowball, Williams (Andre 20); Parr, Hyde (capt), Lewis

Redruth: Bonds (capt), Vinnicombe, P Thirlby, Gidlow, R Thirlby, Griffiths, Richards, Jacques, Cooper, Joyce, Collins, Pascoe, Fox, Woods, Bright

Referee: Andrew Taylorson (RFU)

MATCH STATISTICS

Otley 20

Tries: Andre, Kitching

Cons: Kitching (2)

Pens: Kitching (2)

Redruth 18

Tries: Wood, R Thirlby

Cons: Griffiths

Pens: Griffiths (2)

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