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Coupland's last-gasp try Nicks it for Otley after muddy battle
Buy this photo » Otley's Chris Gemmell, left, is about to pounce on covering Bradford & Bingley player Josh Seal
Otley 19, Bradford & Bingley 15
Bradford & Bingley, who had been dominant in the pack for the vast majority of this Granville Clark Memorial Trophy contest, must have thought they were on to a winner.
They were leading 15-12 with a minute left when hosts Otley produced the most incisive attack of the match.
Replacement Sam Holdsworth broke down the right wing to carve the visitors open and his inside pass was taken by full back Nick Coupland for a thrilling winning try, influential fly half Ben Cooper add-ing the conversion.
“We feel a bit robbed,” said Bees head coach Ronnie Kelly, one of several former Otley players returning to Cross Green.
“We played well, we were dominant in the pack, and the lads who came in from the second team and the third team really dug in but their kicker (Cooper) kept them in it with his 14 points.”
Otley’s interim director of rugby Ryan Duckett said: “They had an experienced front five and we had a young side out.
“Conditions didn’t suit us but we took our chance at the end, and that is what it is all about.”
Otley Saracens’ coach Steve Goodwill said: “Simon Raper in the second row may have put his hand up for a first-team role next weekend (at home to Stockport).”
The sky was so dark when the derby kicked off that one wondered whether there was enough light to squeeze in 80 minutes but it was much lighter by half-time, which meant referee Andrew Vertigan never had to worry about that in the second half.
Otley took a fifth-minute lead when Cooper slotted a penalty after Bees left winger Jack Malthouse had illegally shovelled the ball into touch but home hooker Luke Cole got away with an act of petulance – pushing a Bees player in front of the referee – two minutes later when visiting skipper Richard Scull fell short with a penalty attempt.
In the ninth minute, Scull again couldn’t give a kick at goal enough oomph after Otley had illegally handled the ball but there was joy for the National League Three North side 11 minutes later when No 8 Dan Cookson got on the end of a telling drive to score a try, Scull converting.
Cooper reduced the deficit to a point in the 25th minute when the Bees were offside in front of their posts but the margin was extended to five points when former Otley prop Ryan Wederall was the beneficiary of another powerful pack drive.
Cooper’s third penalty on the half-hour, after the visitors had not rolled away in the tackle, kept Otley in it but the Bees finished the half strongly, Malthouse only being denied a try by a great tackle by James Matthews, and then Wederall having a try chalked off for a marginal forward pass by hooker James Brown.
With the visitors tiring and conditions getting softer underfoot, the Bees did not quite have the same pack superiority in the second half.
Cooper, whose twinkling footwork on a heavy pitch almost created something from deep two minutes after the interval, tied matters at 12-12 with his fourth penalty in the 44th minute.
Scull’s first penalty success in the 53rd minute, which went over via the far upright, put the Bees ahead again, and referee Vertigan then showed some Christmas charity – it was a club match after all – by giving three players a rest on the touchline (two from Otley and one from the Bees) rather than brandishing cards, admitting afterwards that one of them would normally have been a red-card offence.
This unexpected turn of events on the pitch caused spectators amusement and bewilderment in equal measure, with one wag in the crowd shouting: “What are you doing referee, interviewing them all?’” while another shouted “Change them all.”
An important tackle by Bees replacement Richard Tafa ended one dangerous Otley raid in the 69th minute, while five minutes later Otley’s pack finally drove their opponents back.
However, it still seemed likely that Bradford & Bingley would take the spoils until that last-minute piece of Otley excellence.