Manchester 14 Otley 15

By Oscar the Otter - November 24 2008
Manchester 14 Otley 15 Something had to give at Grove Park and thankfully it was Otley who emerged with their first victory of the season in a keenly contested battle. Two first half tries from Kyle Dench and Luther Burrell sealed the victory although the margin could have been greater with 2 further tries having been disallowed.

On a cold, crisp but dry afternoon on the other side of the Pennines, Otley played away from the clubhouse in the first half with the breeze at their backs.

Otley opened up in impressive fashion with a series of strong carries making dents in the Manchester defence. Unfortunately this early pressure did not lead to any points and it was the hosts who registered the first points of the afternoon when Gareth Wynne stroked over a relatively straightforward penalty.

Tom Rhodes levelled the scores at 3-3 almost straight after the re-start with a penalty of his own as Otley continued to harrass the hosts at every opportunity.

Otley continued to drive at the heart of the Manchester defece with back rowers Rob Baldwin, Dan Hyde & Mike McComish to the fore. Nevertheless, it was a turnover in possession on halfway from a Manchester mistake which led to Otley's first try. Industrious warhorse Paul Mooney snaffled possession before good hands released Kyle Dench down the left hand touchline. Dench outpaced the cover defence to race in at the corner from 30 metres out. Tom Rhodes narrowly missed the difficult conversion chance but Otley led 3-8 after 20 minutes.

Wynne reduced the arrears to 6-8 with his second penalty of the afternoon but Otley ran in their second try of the match soon after. Strong running by centre Luther Burrell saw him step out of an attempted tackle before releasing Dench once again down the left flank. The Bridlington bomber pinned his lugs back and headed for the corner and would probably have made it for his second try but unselfishly found an unmarked Burrell supporting on the inside who gathered and rounded behind the posts to leave an easy conversion attempt for Rhodes to make it 6-15 to Otley.

Despite pulling a hamstring in the act of chasing him down, Danny Smith managed to pull off a great tap tackle on Manchester's Scott Rawlings to break up a dangerous break-out. Rhodes then fell short with an ambitious penalty attempt from just inside his own half on the stroke of half-time so Otley took a 9 point lead into the break.

More of the same was the order of the day in the second half but Otley seemed to go off the boil within the first 10 minutes of the re-start and Manchester took advantage when flanker Garth Dew broke through before drawing the last man to put Ben Coulbeck over for a try. Wynne did not land the extras but Manchester were within touching distance at 11-15.

Otley dusted themselves down and began to dominate proceedings again for much of the remainder of the game. McComish released Dench down the short-side and the wingman looked to have scorched in at the corner for his second try of the afternoon only to be called back for a foot in touch call by the Manchester 4th official who had assumed flag duties following referee Nick Williams retirement at half-time.

On a rare incursion into Otley territory, Manchester reduced the arrears to one point when Wynne kicked his third penalty of the afternoon after 67 minutes.

With nerves jangling on the sidelines, Otley were in no mood to let this one slip away after coming so close to victories on 4 other occasions this season. Replacement winger Xavier Andre was proving a menace for the opposition with a number of strong runs while experienced campaigners Hyde, Kris Fullman and Howard Parr made sure things were kept tight.

McComish looked to have settled matters in stoppage time when he ploughed over from the back of a scrum but unfortunately the officals had not been able to see the ball being grounded. Nonetheless, scrum-half Dave McCormack booted the ball off the park from the resulting scrum to signal the end of the match and the onset of raised arms both on and off the pitch. The smiling Otley players then received a deserving cheer from the travelling faithful band of Otley supporters who greeted them at the tunnel.

Otley now look forward to next weekend's clash which sees Sedgley Park (who sit just 6 points and 2 places higher in the league) make the trip to Cross Green where hopefully a good turnout of Otley supporters will be there to cheer the lads on to another win.

Manchester: Coulbeck, Wainwright, Wilson, Rawlings, Wynne, Eaton, Runciman, Birchall, Oxley, Flynn, Norris, Ralph, Owen, Dew, Moss

Otley: Wackett; Dench, Burrell, Mooney, Smith (Andre 40); Rhodes, McCormack; Wederell (Black 47), Kay, Fullman, Denton, Williams (Parr 47), Baldwin, Hyde (capt), McComish

Referee: N Williams (B Fitzmaurice 40) (RFU)

MATCH STATISTICS

Manchester 14

Tries: Coulbeck

Pens: Wynne (3)

Otley 15

Tries: Dench, Burrell

Cons: Rhodes

Pens: Rhodes

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