Otley 14 Fylde RFC 23: Promotion chasers work hard for victory
Fylde retained second place in National Two (North) after a hard-working 23-14 victory against a tough Otley side at Cross Green.
This was no easy stroll in the park on a heavy, cloying pitch against the obdurate Yorkshiremen, especially after a flying opening by the home side.
Fylde were patient and built a score, although it was into the second half before they edged into the lead.
They missed out on a tryscoring bonus point but, in the end, would have been happy to come away with four points in these tricky conditions.
Otley raced out of the blocks on a sunny, but cold, day in West Yorkshire.
They drove into the Fylde half immediately from the kick-off, and in the third minute, a strong run by Freddie Watson created enough space for Elliot Morgan to force his way over for the opening try.
Ben Smith added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Fylde responded for a short while before the home side again pressured their defence.
In the 15th minute, it was Morgan, signed in the summer from local rivals Ilkley, who nabbed his second try after a smart move.
Once again, Ben Smith added the extras for a 14-0 advantage.
It was as if, up to this point, the shellshocked Lancastrians were still on the coach.
But, by the start of the second quarter, they began to claw their way back into the contest.
Fylde pressed into the Otley half, and via a tap penalty, good handling by backs and forwards set up winger Tom Grimes to score in the left corner.
Greg Smith’s attempted conversion from wide out dropped short but at least they were on the scoreboard.
On the half-hour, Fylde’s pack attacked down the centre and, following a strong run by Tom Carleton, Ben Vernon forced his way over near the posts for his first try of the season.
Greg Smith added the easy conversion and Fylde were right back in the game at just 14-12 in arrears.
Fylde took control of the game early in the second half.
The pack went through several phases of possession 20 metres out from the home line.
With the Otley defence committed at the tackle breakdown, the Fylde backs went left and a long miss pass to winger Grimes once more gave him a chance to beat the last defender and score athletically in the corner.
Once again, from the touchline, Greg Smith’s attempted conversion was off target but his side was in front for the first time in the game at 17-14.
As the wet pitch cut up, the game reverted to a midfield slog in the mud.
There were frequent scrummages and the underfoot conditions led to a number of resets as both sides battled for supremacy.
At this stage the result was too close to call as both squads battled hard in a very physical encounter.
In the 58th minute, Fylde were pressing deep in the Otley half and a defender fell offside to concede a crucial penalty.
This wasn’t the time for tap penalty heroics as Smith pragmatically kicked the penalty from in front of the posts to ease his side slightly further away at 20-14.
There was still much fight in the Otley squad as they freshened up their line-up with replacements.
A converted try would have given the home side the lead, and possibly victory, and they hammered away at the resolute Fylde defence.
One move inside the Fylde 22 began with a convincing-looking driving maul, but as it was halted, the home backs moved the ball wide and knocked on at the crucial stage.
In this tense contest, it was only in the 78th minute that Fylde secured the win when they forced another Otley indiscretion.
Greg Smith again opted for a straightforward penalty kick from in front of the sticks, and in doing so, put the game beyond Otley’s reach and closed out the victory.
Otley: Nolson (Dudman 40); Petchey, Roberts, Morgan, Beaumont; Smith, Johnson (Costin-Pratt 65); Burkenshaw, Steele, Moss, Mitchell (Willet 44, Mitchell 65), Dunn, Malthouse, Scott-Paul (Cooper 44), Watson. Non-playing replacement: Jackson.
Fylde: Carleton (Forster 69); Botha, Wilkinson, Rawlings, Grimes; Smith, Lanigan; Horner (Wild 78), Gregory, Lewis, Ashcroft, Parkinson, O’Ryan (Loney 58), Vernon, Conner. Non-playing replacements: Stephenson, Briers.