On a glorious Saturday in West Yorkshire, Otley played host to the Cornish Pirates. After defeating their full time opponents in the same fixture two seasons’ ago, Otley went into the game with high hopes of repeating that upset. A number of personnel changes were made to the side defeated by Leeds last weekend. Robin Kitching and James Parkes returned to the starting XV in place of Steve Parsons and the injured Will Kay. With Howard Parr at HQ playing in the “Help for Heroes Challenge Match”, Max Lewis switched from back row to lock and Nathan Bland came in at flanker. Paul Mooney made a welcome return to the squad and took Bland’s place on the bench. 2007/8 Player of the Year Richard Snowball and captain Dan Hyde were still unavailable due to injury.
Otley dominated the early territory particularly aided by some woeful kicking from the opposition 10. Pressure in midfield led to an Otley penalty, narrowly missed by Kitching. Minutes later Kitching made amends with the ball in hand, bursting through a number of would be tacklers before feeding the ball to supporting flanker Rob Baldwin who crashed over to open the scoring. Kitching was unable to add the extras.
Ill discipline from the home side gifted the Pirates some territory and after turning over a home scrum, the Cornishmen were fortunate to score after a loose pass bounced kindly for Havili to collect and score a converted try. Fly half Tom Rhodes took over the Otley kicking duties and put the home side back in the lead with a 24th minute penalty. The advantage didn’t last long as the Pirates’ pack showed their strength. The visitors put together numerous “pick and drives” around the ruck and after many phases Pirates' second row Mike Burak reached the try line next to the posts for a 7 point score.
Rhodes reduced the deficit to 3 with another successful penalty and the sides looked to be heading in with a small margin between them. However on the stroke of half time the Pirates grabbed a third try from hooker Rob Elloway under the sticks to stretch their lead to 10 points at the interval.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with both sides struggling to break the other down. Pirates perhaps had the upper hand and pressure in Otley’s half led to the harsh sin-binning of Bland. A scrum close to the Otley line provided a good platform for Pirates’ fourth bonus point try out wide by Havili.
The home side were typically in no mood to throw in the towel. Baldwin cut a fine line in midfield to hit a pass from Ian Shuttleworth and then offloaded to substitute winger Parsons who burst away from the cover defence to touch down and Rhodes converted. As defences tired the game began to open up. Pirates scored a fifth try through Vakacegu which went unconverted and then threatened to seal the win with a flowing attacking move. Fortunately for Otley, Shuttleworth intercepted the final pass and sprinted down field. A clever grubber kick ahead forced a scrambled clearance giving Otley great field position from which to attack. They took full advantag when No. 8 Mike McCormish fed Parsons from a scrum and the winger squirmed away from three tacklers to score in the corner. Rhodes added an excellent touchline conversion to bring Otley within six points.
Sensing a potential upset Otley continued to attack from the kick off. Pirates’ replacement prop was sent to the sin bin for cynical play around the ruck and Otley advanced into their opponents ’22. A line-out brought Otley’s pack to the fore and they edged closer and closer to the try line. One drive was stopped just short and the final burst was adjudged held to the displeasure of nearby spectators who had seen prop Ryan Wederell ground the ball over the line. Referee Tim Wigglesworth swiftly brought the match to an end and Otley had to make do with a consolation bonus point when they deserved more.
This was by far the most impressive attacking performance of the season. The team will be encouraged by their ability to compete with full time opposition for the full 80 minutes and when they play with ball in hand can cause defences some real problems. If the side tighten up defensively and continue to attack well, it should not be long before Otley register their first win.
Otley: Shuttleworth, Kitching, Buchanan (Mooney 43-58, 61), Dench (Whittaker 72), Smith (Parsons 54), Rhodes (Monks 72), McCormack (capt), Wederell, Parkes (Steele 54), Fullman, Lewis (Burns 68), Williams, Baldwin, Bland, McComish
Cornish Pirates: Winnan (capt) (McAtee 72), Vakacegu, Devlin, Luke (Winn 72), Havili, Jones, Fairhurst (Griffiths 70), Paver (Cook 62), Elloway, Heard (Seal 40), Burak, Gulliver, Cumming (Morgan 55), Motusaga, Bedes (Senekal 67)
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (RFU)
Tries: Parsons (2), Baldwin
Cons: Rhodes (2)
Pens: Rhodes (2)
Cornish Pirates 31
Tries: Havili (2), Burak, Elloway, Vakacegu
Cons: Jones (3)
Click here for photos of the match courtesy of Paul Barrett
Click here for individual league records