By JUST H JOHNSON
Northallerton first team suffered a shock defeat to bottom of the league Old Otliensians by a close score of 22-20.
As expected the home team raised their game for the visit of last seasons fellow promotees from Yorkshire 3. Northallerton however were unable to match the home teams ability for ball control and retention, and combined with some poor decision making, Otley were deserved winners on the day.
Otley pinned North into their own twenty two from the kick off and were rewarded with North making a mess of the clearance and inviting more pressure. North defended well, but could only keep the home side out until the twentieth minute when Otley were awarded an easy penalty in front of the posts to take the lead.
After twenty five minutes North took the lead when James Hopkin collected the ball like a Dominos pizza and set up a ten metre rolling maul that was eventually touched down by Alex Bilby. Jedd Bainbridge’s conversion falling short in a swirling, erratic wind.
Just after the half hour mark, another defensive mix up by North caused more problems for themselves with Otley awarded a scrum five yards out.
On the first attempted scrum both front rows ended up standing causing the referee to blow for a reset. On the second scrum North were penalised for standing first and the referee immediately awarded a penalty try to Otley.
On the stroke of half time North had the chance to to make up the earlier scrummaging calamity with a scrum of their own, five yards out from the Otley line. This time North calmed ‘thi sens down’ and dominated the scrum. On the first scrum Otley were penalised first for standing up, but before the reset North were forced to replace the injured Iain Swall with his younger brother Phil Swall. On the second scrum Otley were again penalised, but this time for deliberately collapsing the scrum, the referee however did not blow for the penalty try but instead allowed North to play on and Phil Swall to barge over for a unconverted try.
Half time 10-10 - when maybe North should have had the extra two points.
Otley blasted out of the blocks in the second half and scored two tries in the first ten minutes, one converted and one not. During this time Jedd Bainbridge was also yellow carded for annoying the Otley spectators thus allowing him to have a ten minute kiss and cuddle with his fiancée.
On the reintroduction of Bainbridge after sixty minutes, North looked more dangerous as they finally got their backs involved, and were rewarded with a unconverted try out wide for Matthew Marsay after some slick and precise passing through the back line.
North continued to press for the hopefully seven point levelling try, but instead of using their faster backs they continued to attempt to bulldoze their way through with the forwards.
North had the chance of a scrum five yards out and under the posts, but Rio took a quick tap penalty because he thought everyone was looking at the C130 Hercules aircraft circling overhead, but unfortunately he was turned over.
Just when it looked like Otley would hold out, Phil Swall again burst through three defenders to score ten yards in from the sideline. Bainbridge’s conversion attempt drifted agonisingly wide by less than a foot.
Otley held on for the last few minutes to earn their fifth victory of the season.
On a day of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ where Norths decisions and poor kicking let them down, Otley celebrated their deserved win vociferously at the final whistle. Hopefully Otliensians can continue their form for the rest of the season and avoid the drop back into Yorkshire 3 - even its only to let Hoggy + Gaz keep going to the Junction pub for their favourite beer!
Norths man of the match was awarded to Phil Swall despite less than half the game.
Next week North continue on the road to hopefully another Twickenham outing when they travel away to play Sunderland RFC in the final group game of the National Cup, kick off at 2.15pm. If North are successful they will progress to the quarter final knockout stages.
Again Northallerton had no second team game which is beginning to cause some concern within the club and will hopefully be addressed soon.
These thoughts are mostly my own and probably not condoned by Northallerton Rugby Club.