OTLEY 41 BEDFORD 32
Having lost in disappointing fashion at Goldington Road earlier in the season, Otley were intent on setting the record straight on their own turf in front of a large crowd boosted by the glorious sunshine.
Otley were on the ascendency from the outset when Paul Williams leapt like a salmon to take the kick-off on the run and drive into the heart of the Bedford defence.
Otley retained possession for several phases of play but Bedford's defence stood firm.
Otley's opening try came after a brief Bedford foray into the Otley half. Phil Greaves delivered a long wiper clearance kick which Bedford winger Ben Whetstone handled on its way into touch.
Williams took the ensuing line-out 30 metres out and the pack combined to ignite a rolling maul which culminated in Dennis Hazelton diving over near the corner. Kicking machine Simon Binns knocked over the conversion and Otley had an early 7-0 lead.
Bedford responded almost immediately when Alistair Hepher kicked to the corner and Kramer Ronaki notched a score from the catch-and-drive tactic. James Pritchard failed to add the extras.
Slick handling in the Bedford backline was starting to cause Otley problems and Spencer Brown eventually squeezed through the home defence to score under the posts. Pritchard kicked the conversion and Bedford moved into the lead.
Binns kicked a penalty to keep Otley in touch but soon after Hepher was also allowed to ghost through and score Bedford's third try. Pritchard added the simple conversion and the signs looked ominous for Otley as they trailed 10-19.
Prompted by coach Peter Clegg, Otley took the bull by the horns and took the match to their opponents. Rob Whatmuff came on a perfectly angled run to smash his way through the defensive line and score under the posts and Binns converted to make it 17-19.
Otley then scored the best try of the match. Binns gathered a kick in his own 22 and jinked past the Bedford chasers before unleashing a wide pass to full-back Ian Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth glided to the half-way before feeding winger Mark Kirkby on the inside who in turn took the ball on a further 20 metres before being tackled. The ball was recycled quickly and Phil Greaves was able to feed winger Neil Law who raced in to score his tenth try of the season.
With Binns receiving treatment upfield, Shuttleworth converted magnificently from the right-hand touchline to give his side a 24-19 lead.
After 35 minutes, Otley's Nathan Bland was sent to the sin-bin and Bedford advanced towards the Otley line. It was only Chris Kendra's last ditch tackle which prevented Stephen Gray from scoring for Bedford on the stroke of half-time.
Bedford had enough time to reduce the arrears when the referee awarded a dubious looking penalty under the posts which Pritchard converted to make it 24-22.
From the re-start, Otley's No.8 James Tiffany was taken out in mid-air but the referee surprisingly gifted Bedford another penalty which Pritchard converted to nudge his side into a 24-25 lead.
Ronaki and Hazelton were sin-binned early in the second-half and for a spell, with Otley's Bland already in the sin-bin, it was 13 men against 14.
Otley rallied and after more sustained pressure, Simon Binns stepped his way through and scored under the posts. He tagged the two points onto his own try and Otley marched into a 31-25 lead.
The lead was quickly extended when Phil Greaves picked up the ball following a stray Bedford pass before feeding speed merchant Kirkby who showed a clean pair of heels from 60 metres out. Binns maintained the 100% strike rate for the afternoon and Otley looked out-of-sight at 38-25 with 15 minutes to play.
Nevertheless, Bedford again put the outcome into the melting pot when replacement scrum-half Andy Holloway dived over following a rolling maul and Pritchard converted to bring Bedford to within 6 points.
Bedford threw everything at Otley and Shuttleworth was regularly called upon as the last line of defence but he was never found wanting. Binns then steadied the nerves for the home contingent when he kicked his second penalty with only 5 minutes remaining.
Bedford then frantically tried to re-gain their second bonus point. Replacement centre Mike Staten broke clear and fed Ben Whetstone on the inside but Mark Kirkby pulled off a brilliant last ditch tackle which dislodged the ball near the line. Soon after, the referee blew for full-time.
Before the match, Peter Clegg targeted 5 wins from the remaining 5 games and this win has kept Otley on the road to achieving that goal.
Otley: I Shuttleworth, N Law, R Whatmuff, P Greaves, N Law, M Kirkby, S Binns (capt), C Kendra, A Pogson, M Luffman (D Sayers 35), D Hazelton, J Oakes, I Carroll, P Williams, N Bland (M Anuyi 65), J Tiffany
Bedford: J Pritchard, B Whetstone, P Baird (M Staten 60), T Kirk, S Brown, A Hepher, S Gray (A Holloway 60), M Volland (capt), K Ronaki, J Brooks (P Saffy 65), A Brenton, F Fichot, S Harding, L White, H Quigley
Tries: Hazelton, Law, Whatmuff, Binns, Kirkby
Cons: Binns (4), Shuttleworth
Pens: Binns (2)
Tries: Ronaki, Brown, Hepher, Holloway
Cons: Pritchard (3)
Pens: Pritchard (2)
SPONSOR'S (THE RUGBY TIMES) MEN OF THE MATCH